In the Crease: Sharks host Avs in final game before break

In the Crease: Couture's struggles continue

In the Crease: Sharks host Avs in final game before break
December 23, 2013, 9:45 am
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The Avalanche's leading scorer, Matt Duchene has nine points in his last four games including four straight multiple-point performances. (AP IMAGES)

Programming note 
Sharks-Avalanche coverage gets underway at 7:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live, only on Comcast SportsNet California

Where they stand
Sharks: 22-8-6, 50 points, 3rd Pacific Division, 5th Western Conference
Avalanche: 23-10-2, 48 points, 3rd Central Division, 7th Western Conference

Vitals

Sharks
Goals per game: 3.11 (4th)
Goals-against per game: 2.36 (T - 10th)
Power play: 17.6 percent (16th)
Penalty kill: 83.3 percent (12th)

Avalanche
Goals per game: 2.86 (8th)
Goals-against per game: 2.31 (7th)
Power play: 16.0 percent (19th)
Penalty kill: 81.5 percent (18th)

Probable lines

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

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Matt Irwin – Dan Boyle
Brad Stuart – Jason Demers

Antti Niemi
Alex Stalock

Avalanche
Ryan O’Reilly – Matt Duchene – Nathan Mackinnon
Gabriel Landeskog – Paul Stastny – P.A. Parenteau
Jamie McGinn – John Mitchell – Max Talbot
Patrick Bordeleau – Marc-Andre Cliché – Cody McLeod

Jan Hejda – Erik Johnson
Andre Benoit – Cory Sarich
Tyson Barrie – Nate Guenin

Semyon Varlamov
J.S. Giguere

The latest

Sharks: The Sharks erased a 2-0 second period deficit and beat the Dallas Stars in a shootout on Saturday at home, 3-2. Jason Demers’ first goal of the season put the Sharks on the board in the second, and Joe Pavelski tied it in the third. Joe Thornton was the only player to convert in the shootout, his second game-winner in the skills competition in two tries this season. Alex Stalock made 44 saves. The Sharks have alternated wins and losses in their last five games (3-2-0).

[RELATED: Stalock may be in line for more playing time]

Avalanche: Just like San Jose, the Avalanche has alternated wins and losses lately, going 3-1-2 in its last six. On Saturday, Anze Kopitar was the only player to score in the shootout as Colorado lost 3-2 in Los Angeles. Both of Colorado’s goals came on the power play, from Erik Johnson and Ryan O’Reilly, with Matt Duchene assisting on both. Semyon Varlamov made 37 saves.

Keep an eye on…

Sharks: Joe Pavelski. The now top-line winger continued his hot streak with an important goal against Dallas on Saturday, his fifth in the last four games. His 23 minutes and 29 seconds of ice time was his second highest mark of the season, and led all Sharks players. Pavelski has 17 points (7g, 10a) in 24 games vs. the Avalanche.

Avalanche: Matt Duchene. Earlier on Monday, Avalanche leading scorer Duchene was named as the NHL’s Third Star of the Week, with nine points in four games including four straight multiple-point performances. Duchene has 33 points and leads the team with 16 goals. He has nine points (5g, 4a) in 13 career games against San Jose.

Injuries/Scratches

Sharks: Tomas Hertl (right knee), Raffi Torres (right ACL surgery), and Adam Burish (back surgery) are out.

Avalanche: Alex Tanguay (sprained knee) and Ryan Wilson (back) are out.

Season/All-Time series

The Sharks and Avalanche will do battle twice more after tonight, with both games at Pepsi Center on Jan. 4 and March 29.

All-time, the Sharks are 33-35-5-5 against the Colorado/Quebec franchise.

Quoteable

“The things that we want to do for our goalies are no different, whoever’s in net. System-wise and team-wise, we’ve got to play the same way.” – Patrick Marleau

Burning question

How concerned are you with the lack of offensive production lately from Logan Couture and Brent Burns? Leave your answer below.