Avalanche-Sharks Preview

If the Colorado Avalanche are to have a chance at taking over the top spot in the Western Conference, they must find a way to end their lengthy struggles in San Jose.

The Avalanche can continue their current surge Friday night by avoiding a 12th consecutive regular-season road defeat to the Sharks.

Paul Stastny scored twice, defenseman Tyson Barrie got the go-ahead goal with 7:30 left and Semyon Varlamov made 38 saves in Colorado’s 4-2 win at Vancouver on Thursday.

"We just want to keep winning," said Stastny, who has five goals and 12 points in the last nine games. "For us, the most important thing is to keep playing well and get going heading into the playoffs."

In the midst of an 8-0-1 stretch, the Avs lead the Central Division while owning the same 111 points as reeling St. Louis. Colorado (52-21-7) holds the tiebreaker with four more regulation and overtime victories than the Blues, who have dropped four in a row.

St. Louis plays at Dallas on Friday and hosts Detroit on Sunday.

The Blues and Avs, who will have home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, are one point behind West-leading Anaheim. Colorado visits the Ducks to conclude the regular season Sunday. Anaheim faces Los Angeles a day earlier.

"These next two games are big," Barrie told the NHL’s official website. "We know what’s on the line."

Continuing their surge won’t be easy at San Jose, where the Avs have managed 17 goals during an 0-7-4 regular-season skid dating to a 3-1 victory Feb. 6, 2008. Colorado did win 2-1 at San Jose in Game 1 of a 2010 first-round playoff series, and dropped the last two during the regular season there in shootouts.

Since falling 5-4 there Dec. 23, the Avalanche have earned a pair of one-goal home victories over the Sharks (49-22-9), who have been outscored 8-2 while losing their last two overall.

Logan Couture and Jason Demers each scored Wednesday as San Jose allowed three second-period goals and lost for the fourth time in six games, 5-2 at Anaheim.

The Sharks look to get back on track and build some momentum for the postseason, where they’ll have home-ice advantage against the Kings in the first round.

"You can look at (Wednesday), or at something we did three or four games ago, or even before that," defenseman Dan Boyle said. "We still like our chances in the playoffs."

The Sharks likely need to see improvement from Antii Niemi, who has a 3.36 goals-against average while losing three of five. He was pulled after yielding three goals on 19 shots Wednesday.

Niemi is 1-0-0 with a 4.68 GAA in two starts this season against the Avalanche, and was yanked for giving up three goals on 14 shots of a 4-3 road loss Jan. 4.

Couture had five goals with six assists in 11 games versus Colorado before totaling a goal in the first three this season.

Though Varlamov has allowed two goals six times and recorded a shutout once during a 6-0-1 stretch and broke coach Patrick Roy’s single-season club record with his 41st win Thursday, Reto Berra is expected to start this contest.

Berra made 22 saves during a 5-4 overtime loss at Winnipeg on March 19 in his only game since being acquired from Calgary on March 5.