Avalanche-Sharks Preview

While the San Jose Sharks intend to better their playoff

position, the Colorado Avalanche must find a way to avoid falling

further out of contention in the Western Conference.

The Sharks look to continue their recent surge while trying to

hand the visiting Avalanche a 10th consecutive loss Saturday

night.

San Jose (32-21-6), in the midst of an 11-2-1 stretch that

followed a six-game skid, is tied for fourth place in the

conference.

“Everyone realizes the standings and how tight the West is,”

forward Joe Pavelski said. “Every game has a playoff

atmosphere.”

Once in the thick of the race, Colorado (25-26-7) is 11 points

out of the final playoff spot and mired in its longest losing

streak since the franchise relocated from Quebec prior to the

1995-96 season.

Though the Avalanche earned their first point since Jan. 24 in

Wednesday’s 3-2 overtime loss to Pittsburgh, they remain in

position to go winless in 10 straight for the first time since the

Nordiques went 0-8 with two ties Jan. 28-Feb. 15, 1992.

“We don’t feel sorry for ourselves,” said coach Joe Sacco, whose

team has been outscored 38-14 during the nine-game skid. “No one

else certainly will.”

The Sharks won’t as they try for a fifth consecutive

regular-season home victory over the Avalanche, who won 2-1 at San

Jose in Game 1 of a 2010 first-round playoff series.

Craig Anderson stymied the Sharks in that contest but won’t have

the chance Saturday after Colorado traded the struggling netminder

to Ottawa for goalie Brian Elliott on Friday.

Elliott, who went 13-19-8 with a 3.19 goals-against average for

the Senators this season, will not be with the team Saturday.

Peter Budaj will try to avoid a sixth straight loss overall and

improve on his 0-3-1 record and 2.98 GAA at San Jose.

“The (No. 1) job’s open,” Sacco said. “We’re going to give Brian

an opportunity to see where he’s at and how he fits in and give him

a chance to play.”

To help either goaltender, the Avalanche also acquired former

2006 No. 1 overall pick and defenseman Erik Johnson from the St.

Louis Blues on Saturday in a four-player trade. Johnson, a member

of the U.S. Olympic team that won a silver medal at the Olympics,

has five goals and 14 assists in 55 games.

“We are excited to be adding a top young defenseman in this

league, a player who will have an impact on our blue line for

several years to come,” Avs general manager Greg Sherman said in a

statement.

The Avalanche, who also received Jay McClement and a first-round

pick in either 2011 or 2012, sent Chris Stewart and Kevin

Shattenkirk to St. Louis.

Pavelski has two goals with an assist as these teams have split

two games in Colorado this season. He had one of each as the Sharks

held off Washington 3-2 on Thursday for their second straight

win.

Dany Heatley, who scored San Jose’s first power-play goal in six

games Thursday, has a goal and six assists in his last five

regular-season games versus Colorado.

Antti Niemi has a 1.43 GAA while winning five of seven overall,

and he’s 1-1-1 with a 3.25 GAA versus Colorado – all with

Chicago.

Though San Jose could be without defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic

after he suffered an upper-body injury against the Capitals, Ian

White might be in the lineup a day after the Sharks acquired him

from Carolina for a 2012 draft pick.

The veteran defenseman had two goals and 14 assists in 50 games

this season with the Hurricanes and Calgary.

“We think Ian is a great fit for our club,” general manager Doug

Wilson told the Sharks’ official website. “He’s a great competitor

who is responsible in his own end.”