The Colorado Avalanche are back in the playoff hunt, and it feels so good.
With Wednesday’s 3-2 shootout victory over the Vancouver Canucks, the Avs are in the second Western Conference wild card spot, behind the Minnesota Wild. The Avs are sitting in 5th place in the Central Division, also right behind the Wild.
They are heading to San Jose tonight tonight to take on a Sharks team that is coming home after a 4-1 road loss in Boston, at the end of a 2-2 road trip. The Sharks are in 2nd place in the Pacific Division, behind the Calgary Flames.
The Avs last played the Sharks on January 2nd, and they lost 5-4 in Denver. Tyson Jost scored twice, along with Matt Calvert and Tyson Barrie. Philipp Grubauer was pulled in the second period after giving up four goals.
The Avs defense has been strong lately, but is about to receive some reinforcements. Defenseman Ian Cole has been out since he fractured his orbital bone during a fight with Tom Wilson in Washington on Feb. 7. He practiced in a full contact jersey, but with a full cage yesterday. Head Coach Jared Bednar says that Cole is available for tonight’s game, but the line adjustments have not yet been announced.
Bednar said he hadn't made a decision yet on who will sit on the defense. Cole is available but no decisions yet.— AJ Haefele (@AJHaefele) February 28, 2019
The last two games have been tight, and have gone into overtime. Monday resulted in a 4-3 loss to the Panthers, but Wednesday was the first shutout victory of the season, 3-2 over the Canucks. Those extra minutes can take a toll, but with days off on Tuesday, and Thursday, it shouldn’t have much of an impact, especially with Cole as a defensive reinforcement.
San Jose is the first of two stops on this brief California road trip. The Avs will head to Anaheim to face the Ducks on Sunday.
Alexander Kerfoot - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Gabriel Landeskog - Tyson Jost - Matt Calvert
Derick Brassard - Carl Soderberg - J.T. Compher
Sven Andrighetto - Sheldon Dries - Colin Wilson
Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Ryan Graves - Tyson Barrie
Patrik Nemeth - Nikita Zadorov
The Sharks are looking to get back in the win column after their 2-2 road trip. Their last home win was on February 16, a 3-2 victory over the Canucks, but they lost 5-1 to the Capitals, and 6-5 in overtime to the Bruins during that home stand. This game is shaping up to be a duel between two teams who recently beat the Canucks— with a worse record than these two.
In their game against the Bruins, the Sharks struggled offensively, with Logan Couture scoring the only goal on a power play and he was unassisted. Couture scored early in the first period and the offense was silent after that. The Sharks gave up three goals, and two in 37 seconds in the second period. They have been off since Tuesday in Boston.
Timo Meier - Logan Couture - Joe Pavelski
Evander Kane - Tomas Hertl - Joonas Donskoi
Gustav Nyquist - Joe Thornton - Kevin Labanc
Marcus Sorensen - Barclay Goodrow - Melker Karlsson
Radim Simek - Brent Burns
Marc-Édouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon - Tim Heed
After his first shootout win of the season on Wednesday, it seems likely that Semyon Varlamov will start tonight. He did not play in the previous game against the Sharks, but considering he is hot right now, and Grubauer struggled last time, he looks to be getting the start.
The Sharks haven’t announced tonight’s starter but Martin Jones played against the Bruins and allowed all four goals. He also allowed all four goals when the Sharks came to Denver in January. He has an .896 SV% this season. Aaron Dell last played on Feb. 24 against the Red Wings, and allowed three goals. He has an .892 SV % on the season.
These two teams will also play each other in Denver on April 6th.