SAN JOSE Monday nights Sharks-Avalanche game at HP Pavilion will have a bit of a different feel as the clubs are meeting for the first time since swapping forwards at the trade deadline, but the objective doesnt change.
The ninth-place Sharks (38-27-10) can greatly increase their already improving playoff chances with a win over 10th-place Colorado (40-31-6). Each team has 86 points, but the Avs have played two more games than San Jose.
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In fact, San Jose could all but kill Colorado's chances with a regulation victory. That should add extra incentive, according to Ryane Clowe.
As much as you can try to bury teams out of this race, the better for us, Clowe said. Obviously, it would be great for us if we beat them tonight and it will hurt their chances, big time. Thats pretty high motivation that we should use tonight.
This is a great chance, the fact that we have a couple games in hand and if we can beat them tonight it kind of separates us, so that would be good.
San Jose could even re-take the Pacific Division lead if everything goes its way. The Dallas Stars visit Calgary and the Los Angeles Kings are in Vancouver in other Monday night action around the league.
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Its an important game for us. We need to take that jump and not fall behind, Joe Pavelski said. We want to keep moving forward.
San Jose is 5-2-1 in its last eight games.
We need everyone in the locker room to play well, and bring to the table what they can bring. I think thats the biggest thing, is weve had more team efforts lately, Pavelski said.
McGinn returns: Jamie McGinn already has eight goals and four assists in his first 13 games with Colorado, and has found good chemistry while playing the wing alongside Paul Stastny. In 61 games with the Sharks, McGinn had 12 goals and 12 assists.
Todd McLellan isnt surprised at McGinns success.
Hes a hell of a player. Hes had a career-type year. He is scoring goals, and hes given an opportunity to play a few more minutes there with a young team, said the coach.
He went there, established himself, and hes a confident player right now. And thats Jamie McGinn. We all liked him when he was here, and our job now is to go beat him when hes over there.
Daniel Winnik, meanwhile, has two big goals in the last two games.
Emotions will probably be running high with those players. It was tough seeing a guy go like Ginner, but its been great having the guys step in and theyve brought a lot to our team, Pavelski said.
Lineup the same: The Sharks are expected to ice the same lineup against the Avalanche that played in wins over Boston and Phoenix. That means Winnik will play with Andrew Desjardins and Tommy Wingels, while Michal Handzus is between Dominic Moore and Torrey Mitchell.
Which one of those lines is the third, and which is the fourth? The Desjardins line, assumed to be the fourth line before the Phoenix game, played more minutes than the Handzus line on Saturday and was very effective.
As a coach you have a memory of last game, and you have to reward that group for doing what they did well, McLellan said. Its on a night-to-night basis. Theyre going to have to go out and establish themselves again.
I expect Zeus line to be much better than they were last game. Its good to have that healthy competition. There is no three, there is no four. Its just two lines that will get some ice time and whoever is playing well, is going to play.
On defense, Colin White and Jim Vandermeer are expected to be the healthy scratches again. TJ Galiardi wont get a chance to play against his former team, as hes still out with an upper body injury.
In the crease: Antti Niemi will make his 15th straight start in net for the Sharks, opposed by Semyon Varlamov.
Niemi is 1-0-1 in two games against Colorado this season, allowing seven goals in 123 minutes (3.39 goals-against average, .883 save percentage).
Varlamov hasnt been any better against the Sharks this season, going 1-1-0 while allowing eight goals in 123 minutes (3.88 GAA, .875 SP), although he recorded the overtime win on Dec. 13, 4-3.
Varlamov is 5-1-1 in his last seven starts.
The Sharks are 2-0-1 against Colorado this season, including a 5-4 win at home on Dec. 15.
Colorado still in the mix: Despite losses in their last two games, the Avalanche are 7-2-2 in their last 11. Mondays game in San Jose is the start of a three-game road trip, with stops on Vancouver and Calgary before a two-game homestand closes out their season.
A lot of speed, balanced scoring and a lot of scoring from different people, very good power play, McLellan said, when asked about the Avs. Varlamov has played extremely well over the last 10 or 15 games, and looks very confident in the net.
I think the game is going to have some tempo to it, and were going to have to be prepared to play that way.
Odds and ends: Patrick Marleau leads all scorers in the season series with five points (4g, 1a) including a hat trick on Nov. 20 in Denver. Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson will return after a five-game absence.