Preview: Avalanche at Sharks
The San Jose Sharks have yet to trail in their Western Conference semifinal but they own a sizable home-ice advantage in what essentially has turned into a best-of-three against the eighth-seeded Colorado Avalanche. The Sharks have won 17 of the past 19 meetings at home entering Saturday's Game 5 against the Avalanche, although Colorado squeezed out a 4-3 victory in Game 2.
The Avalanche leveled the series at two games apiece with a 3-0 victory on Thursday night as Philipp Grubauer made 32 saves for his first career postseason shutout. "(He) was great tonight," star forward Nathan MacKinnon said of Grubauer after Game 4. "It would be awesome to win Game 5 and come back here 3-2." San Jose had scored at least three goals in eight of its first 10 playoff games before absorbing its second shutout of the postseason, squandering a chance to put a stranglehold on the series. “We’re disappointed for sure. It was a good opportunity for us but it’s supposed to be tough,” Sharks goalie Martin Jones told reporters. “We’re 2-2 here, we got home ice for the rest of the way so, just got to take care of business next game.”
TV: 10 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, CBC, TVA, Sportsnet
ABOUT THE AVALANCHE: While MacKinnon scored a combined 80 goals over the past two seasons, he has taken his game to another level in the postseason, scoring in three straight contests and collecting at least one point (13 total) in eight consecutive games. It's the longest postseason streak for Colorado since Peter Forsberg's eight-game run in 2002. "If he's not the best player in the world right now, I don't know who is," defenseman Erik Johnson told reporters. "Thank God he is on our team because he would make a lot of us look silly. What a player, he is clearly on a different level right now and is feeling it."
ABOUT THE SHARKS: No update was offered on the status of Joe Pavelski, who has not played since he was hurt in Game 7 versus Vegas, but coach Peter DeBoer told reporters the absence of the team captain is part of San Jose's power-play difficulties in the series(1-for-10). “We’ve got to get it going,” DeBoer said. “It hasn’t been great. We miss Joe Pavelski, but the other guys have to find ways to get it done.” The third line of Joe Thornton, Marcus Sorensen and Kevin Labanc has been limited to one assist since a huge performance in the series opener while Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane have been blanked the past two games.
1. Avalanche RW Mikko Rantanen collected two assists Thursday to tie MacKinnon for the team lead with 13 points.
2. Sharks D Brent Burns was held off the scoresheet in Colorado but had seven points in Games 1 and 2.
3. MacKinnon can tie Claude Lemieux's nine-game playoff point streak for the Avalanche in 1997, which is second only to Joe Sakic's 10-game string (1996).
PREDICTION: Sharks 4, Avalanche 2