In the Crease: Avs can clinch playoff spot vs. Sharks

In the Crease: Avs can clinch playoff spot vs. Sharks
March 29, 2014, 8:00 am
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Colorado would clinch a playoff spot with one point against San Jose. (USATSI)

Programming note: Sharks-Avalanche coverage gets underway on Comcast SportsNet California at 11:30 a.m. with Sharks Pregame Live

Where they stand
Sharks: 47-19-9, 103 points, 2nd Pacific Division, 2nd Western Conference
Avalanche: 46-21-6, 98 points, 3rd Central Division, 5th Western Conference

Playoff watch

The Sharks are one point ahead of Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division. The Ducks have two games in hand and own the tiebreaker of more regulation/overtime wins (45-37). Anaheim lost to Edmonton in overtime last night, 4-3, and is in Vancouver tonight.

If the playoffs started today, the Sharks would host the Minnesota Wild.

Colorado would clinch a playoff spot with one point today against San Jose.

The latest

Sharks: Toby Enstrom’s power play goal late in the third period gave the Sharks just their third regulation loss since the Olympic break, 4-3. Dan Boyle, Brent Burns (power play), and Logan Couture (power play) scored in the loss, as San Jose is just 1-1-2 in its last four games. The Sharks have six games remaining in the regular season after Saturday, four of which are at home.

Avalanche: Colorado has won two straight, winning in Nashville in a shootout on Tuesday, 5-4, and beating Vancouver in overtime at home on Thursday, 3-2. Defenseman Tyson Barrie netted the game-winner. Six of Colorado’s final eight games are on the road, including four straight away from Pepsi Center to close out the regular season.

Keep an eye on…

Sharks: Dan Boyle. The defenseman scored just his second goal of 2014, scoring the first goal in Thursday’s loss to Winnipeg. Boyle remains a key part of the power play, too, manning a unit that has generated five goals in the last two games. A healthy, effective Boyle will be vital for the Sharks down the stretch and into the postseason. He has one goal and two assists in his last three games.

Avalanche: Ryan O’Reilly. The 23-year-old leads Colorado with a career-high 26 goals, and is third in scoring with 58 points. Astoundingly, he has yet to take a single penalty in 71 games, the only NHL player who has played in more than 50 games without any penalty minutes. The last player to go at least 70 games with no penalties was New York’s Butch Goring in 1980-81.

Vitals

Sharks
Goals per game: 2.93 (7th)
Goals-against per game: 2.32 (4th)
Power play: 17.3 percent (19th)
Penalty kill: 84.5 percent (6th)

Avalanche
Goals per game: 3.01 (6th)
Goals-against per game: 2.70 (15th)
Power play: 19.9 percent (19th)
Penalty kill: 80.0 percent (24th)

Probable lines

Sharks
Joe Pavelski – Joe Thornton – Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Matt Nieto
Marty Havlat – James Sheppard – Tommy Wingels
Tyler Kennedy – Andrew Desjardins – Mike Brown

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Jason Demers
Scott Hannan – Dan Boyle
Brad Stuart – Justin Braun

Antti Niemi
Alex Stalock

Avalanche
Ryan O'Reilly - Matt Duchene - Jamie McGinn
Gabriel Landeskog - Paul Stastny - Nate Mackinnon
Max Talbot - John Mitchell - Cody McLeod
Patrick Bordeleau - Brad Malone - Marc-Andre Cliche

Jan Hejda - Erik Johnson
Tyson Barrie - Nick Holden
Cory Sarich - Andrew Benoit

Semyon Varlamov
JS-Giguere

Injuries/Scratches

Sharks: Tomas Hertl (right knee surgery), Raffi Torres (soreness/right knee surgery) and Adam Burish (left hand) are out.

Avalanche: John Mitchell (back), PA Parenteau (knee) and Alex Tanguay (knee/hip) are out.

Season/All-Time series

The Sharks beat Colorado at home in a shootout, 5-4 on Dec. 23. The Avalanche defended their home ice on Jan. 4, with a 4-3 triumph. This is the third of four meetings, with the final coming on April 11 at SAP Center in the penultimate game for both clubs.

Joe Thornton leads both teams in the season series in scoring with four points, all assists.

All-time, the Sharks are 34-36-5 against the Colorado/Quebec franchise, with five ties.

Quoteable

“They’re playing well this year. They have a lot of confidence. A young group that has a lot of energy.” – Marc-Edouard Vlasic on Colorado

Burning question

Who should win the Jack Adams award for best coach in the NHL this season? Leave your answer in the comments section below.