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Avalanche at Sharks, Game 18 Preview

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Gabe Landeskog and his Colorado Avalanche return to the scene of the crime legal hit to extend Brad Stuart a friendly 'how do ya do?' as they attempt to salvage a dismal west coast swing.

Thearon W. Henderson

Your 7-8-2 Colorado Avalanche take on the 8-6-3 San Jose Sharks tonight at HP Pavilion. The two squads have not squared off since the infamous Brad Stuart hit that concussed Gabe Landeskog. Thankfully the Avs' captain has returned to the ice, and even looked more himself in the OT loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday. If you're looking for some kind of payback tonight from the Avs, don't get your hopes up as Stuart already answered the bell seconds after the hit when Ryan O`Byrne stood up for his captain (turn down the volume if you use the link. The SJ commentary is sinfully biased. I didn't know San Jose was on an island).

Enough about that.

The Avalanche at times this season have looked like a team that could squeak into the post season if the stars all line up correctly, but have just as often (if not more often) appeared to be a team destined for the NHL cellar. That inconsistency has many culprits, but the biggest Eric Karlsson Achilles' heel seems to be consistent effort, and this past weekend was a prime example: the Avs were flat against the Kings and were put down as easily as an empty glass, then Sunday the Burgundy & Blue played with purpose and got a point out of it. Whether it's youth, injuries, coaching, a hex, or a combination of factors (or no Factor...), the Avs should at least play hard, and I would expect them to do so tonight against a team that they let get the best of them last time.

As uninspiring as this road trip has been, a win tonight puts the Avalanche back at .500 and would salvage 3 of the possible 6 points available during this road swing.... which is kind of like kissing your sister, except no one goes to jail.

Who's Hot (or at least mildly lukewarm): The defense getting some offense. After a paltry start to the season, the new look blueline is finally mustering some offense (despite their continued lack of defense) as Tyson Barrie has 5 points in 10 games (all in his last 6 games). Matt Hunwick is also showing up in boxscore areas other than +/-, with 2 points in his last 3 games, including setting up that sexy David Jones game winner against the Blues.

Who's Cold (or effectively frostbitten): Speaking of Jones, dude has 5 points in 15 games and is a -9. He and linemate Paul Stastny (-7, 4 points in last 8 ames) have been exemplars of under-performance (bloated contracts aside) and need "to do more". At some point the Avs brass has to be tired of saying and hearing that phrase. I know I am.

Who's a Tepid Mystery: Semyon Varlamov. The enigmatic defense in front of him only compounds Varly's inherent Russian enigmatic genetics, but dude needs to turn in better performances than he did in his last outing. Allowing 4 goals on your opponents first 14 shots ain't gonna cut it behind any defense. The previous game, the young Ruskie put up a 33-save shutout, so who will we get tonight? You can find out at 8:30pm on Altitude in this, the last second of three meetings between the clubs this season. Go Avs.