Second-place Sharks aiming for better effort vs. Avalanche (Jan 23, 2017)

BY AP • January 22, 2017

The San Jose Sharks had a surprising tough time putting away the worst team in the NHL at home on Saturday night.

They get a chance for a more convincing win when they take on the Colorado Avalanche in Denver on Monday night.

The Sharks (29-16-2) are second in the Pacific Division but have two games in hand on first place Anaheim. San Jose's road record is only 12-10-1 but the good news is Monday's game is at Pepsi Center, where the Avalanche are 5-16-1 and have lost 12 of their last 13.

Still, after Saturday's 3-2 overtime win against Colorado, the Sharks aren't taking this one lightly, especially with the congestion at the top of the division.

"Tight division. Points are at a premium," Dave Schlemko, who scored the overtime goal on Saturday, said after the game. "We have a couple games in hand on (Anaheim and Edmonton). We have to turn those into wins and points so we can keep it going here on the road."

The Sharks have won four in a row and six of their last eight to get within a point of the Ducks. The news could be even better if they get center Thomas Hertl back from his sprained right knee. Hertl skated hard Saturday morning and if he doesn't return Monday he could be back within the week.

"I think it's almost day-to-day now," Hertl told The Mercury News. "I think I'm pretty close but we'll see how it goes the next couple days. I believe it'll be playing soon now."

Hertl, who has four goals and five assists in 17 games, hasn't played since Nov. 17.

"He's getting very close," San Jose coach Peter DeBoer told The Mercury News. "We're starting to talk about him on a daily basis, which is a good sign."

San Jose probably won't need him against the Avalanche (13-29-2), who have an NHL-low 28 points and come into Monday 2-14-1 in their last 17 games. With the playoffs not a realistic option the talk has surrounded trades. Most often mentioned are center Matt Duchene and forward Gabriel Landeskog, but as of Monday the duo is still on the roster.

So are Tyson Barrie and Rene Bourque, but neither one played Saturday because of lower-body injuries. They are considered day to day and even without those two Colorado picked up a point in San Jose.

"We're playing real good hockey against real good teams right now and we're fighting and in all the games," Colorado coach Jared Bednar said after Saturday's loss. "We want to make sure we don't have those games where we lay an egg, that we're in every game and we give ourselves a chance to win. And we've been doing that here lately even though we haven't been getting the results."

The Avalanche will be without goaltender Semyon Varlamov until after the All-Star break due to a groin injury. Calvin Pickard has played well in his absence and rookie Spencer Martin had 27 saves in his NHL debut Saturday.

"I think it's very good to get the first one out of the way without doing terribly, so it's a confidence boost and I'll use it," Martin said after the game.

Colorado has lacked Confidence for two months, but San Jose is brimming with it, and last year's Stanley Cup runner-up is gearing up for another deep playoff run.

Monday's game will be the Sharks' fifth in eight nights but they've played through the grind leading up to the All-Star break, including Saturday's game.

"I feel the fatigue and I haven't played a game. I'm just coaching," DeBoer said. "We found a way to win, it was ugly, but we found a way."



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