Game 78 Preview: Avalanche @ Sharks

78- at Sharks

The Avalanche have five games left, including tonight's tilt against the San Jose Sharks. To make it into the playoffs, they need to win four of them. With that huMANgous big break between games 80 and 81 and the boys' tendency to start slow after a few days off, the Avs can't afford to lose even a point tonight.

Erik Johnson skated on his own yesterday and is on the trip with the team (per the Denver Post). Whether or not he will play tonight is still unknown. We should hear after the morning skate. Presumably, that's when we'll know if Peter Mueller will be scratched again. I have to be honest: although I don't agree it was necessarily the best decision, Matt Duchene's line had more jump in it on Saturday. Coincidence or the change of personnel? Who knows. It will be interesting to see if Tyson Barrie retains his spot if Johnson does not play; that sequence that led to the Canucks' OT goal might have put him squarely back in the press box. (For the record, I don't think it should have, but we've seen less force Sacco's hand. Sup, Teej?) Speaking of T.J. Galiardi, he may not be in the Sharks' line up tonight as he's been suffering from an upper body injury which has kept him out the last five games. He's considered day-to-day.

This will be the final game in a three-game homestand for the Sharks. They've won two of the three games so far. The Avs are starting a three-game road trip tonight, which is probably a good thing. They can leave that depressing 0-2-2 record from the last four games behind them and start anew. Unfortunately for the Avs, they have not won a game in regulation against the Sharks in HP Pavillion since October 1, 2009. Tonight's the night to change that.

As if the playoff and injury story lines weren't enough, we have this little gem too: tonight is the first meeting between the Sharks and the Avalanche since the trade deadline. You can bet that even if he's wearing a suit, Galiardi has added his money to Daniel Winnik's on the players' board, urging his team to get the win for them. Likewise, Jamie McGinn is sure to be putting up some cash of his own to encourage the Avs to come out ahead.

Emotions will be high, energy will be intense, and playoff lives will be threatened tonight. Could it get any better?

For the Sharks' perspective, visit Fear the Fin and take a gander at their preview. Semyon Varlamov will be in net.

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