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Sharks face Avalanche in back end of home-and-home set



7:30 PST

14-16-1, 29 points 15-10-3, 33 points
13th in Western Conference 8th in Western Conference


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As a result of their 4-3 shootout loss in Colorado Tuesday night, the San Jose Sharks {15-10-3 with 33 points} find themselves tied with the Phoenix Coyotes for second place in the Western Conference Pacific Division, two points behind the division leading Dallas Stars.

Tonight, the Sharks return home to HP Pavilion to host the Colorado Avalanche {14-16-1 with 29 points} in the back end of a home-and-home set and the first of a six game home stand for the Sharks that will conclude Dec. 28 against the Vancouver Canucks.

The Avalanche, who are currently in last place of the Northeast Division of the Western Conference, have lost eight consecutive road games {0-7-1} since winning their first six. The Avalanche’s last road victory was a 5-4 shootout win in Chicago on Oct. 22.

Currently the talk of the NHL realm for all the wrong reasons, the Sharks finished their three-in-four road trip 0-1-2 with two points and are 2-5-3 in their last nine games after going 12-2-1 from Oct. 21–Nov. 23.

Jamie McGinn led the Sharks in goals {two} on the road trip while Dan Boyle led the team in scoring with three points {one goal, two assists}. Michal Handzus led the team in assists {two} and now has assists in five of the last seven games.

Meanwhile, the top six Sharks forwards {Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Ryane Clowe, Martin Havlat} produced a combined four points on the road trip with one goal, which was the Marleau goal that forced overtime Tuesday night, and three assists, two of which came on Marleau’s goal via Couture and Thornton.

Over the last ten games, Pavelski, who leads the Sharks in goals {12}, has registered three points {one goal, two assists}, Havlat three assists, Marleau two goals and Thornton four assists.

Between the pipes, Antti Niemi {11-6, 2.33 goals against average, .919 save percentage} matched his season totals on the road trip, positing a 2.33 goals against average and a .918 save percentage. Should Niemi be given the night off, Thomas Greiss {4-4, 2.37 goals against average, .918 save percentage}, who last started in the 5-3 home loss to the Florida Panthers on Dec. 3, had a stellar road game against the Avalanche on Nov. 20, stopping 36-of-37 shots in the Sharks’ 4-1 victory.

A golden opportunity to get back to their winning ways has been thrusted upon the Sharks with this home stand to close out 2011. The players though, have got to want it themselves and play with a sense of urgency that has been sorely missing in their recent lackadaisical play.

The Sharks would be wise to take to heart the words of Avalanche captain Milan Hejduk, who said after the Avalanche’s 4-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Dec. 9, “We need to play with more pride. We didn’t execute… We have to have a hard look in the mirror and bounce back.”

Prediction: Sharks will defeat the Avalanche 4-2.

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