NHL Hockey

Key injury looms over Avs-Sharks matchup

The Colorado Avalanche have turned their season around in the past 10 games, but one thing they hadn't solved was winning a game after regulation.

For one night they fixed that aspect, too, and now they want to carry that momentum forward. Friday's game at the San Jose Sharks is the start of a big stretch for the Avalanche, who play three of their next four on the road and try to stay in a strong position for a playoff spot.

Getting a 3-2 shootout win over Vancouver on Wednesday was a big weight off the Colorado players' shoulders. The Avalanche were 1-12 in overtime and shootouts before Carl Soderberg delivered the winner in the sixth round against the Canucks.

It put Colorado into the second wild-card slot but with six teams within range of the two wild-card positions there's no room for error.

"It's exciting to be in the playoffs, but all the teams around us, they're not just going to sleep, they're going to continue to play hard," Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov told the media after Wednesday's win. "Everybody's winning, so we got to keep winning the games and collect two points."

Improved goaltending has helped Colorado during its 6-2-2 stretch. Varlamov and his backup, Philipp Grubauer, struggled along with the rest of the team but in the last 10 games the Avalanche have given up 21 goals and have a pair of shutouts.

Colorado will be tested against a strong offensive Sharks team that is second in the Western Conference with 229 goals in 64 games. San Jose has plenty of weapons, but one of its best defensemen is hurting again. Erik Karlsson left Tuesday's loss at Boston after he aggravated a groin injury that kept him out of 10 games over the previous two months.

Karlsson sat out Sunday's game in Detroit because his bothersome groin injury flared up in a loss at Columbus the night before. He tried to play through it Tuesday but didn't play in the third period of a 4-1 loss to the Bruins.

"You guys saw what I saw," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer told reporters after the Boston game. "He stumbled. He spun around and looked like he tweaked something again, and tried to go back out there."

Karlsson had taken part in the morning skate and said he was good to go but he might now be sidelined for a stretch.

"We know what kind of player he is," Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said. "Moving forward, that's one of the biggest things, getting his health back, getting him moving and skating and stuff because he is a great talent for us. It's tough to see him not be able to move out there."

If Karlsson can't play it will make it tougher for the Sharks to slow down Colorado's offense. Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon lead the team with 33 goals each, and MacKinnon is tied with Mikko Rantanen for the team lead in points with 81.

Like their goaltending, the Avalanche's offense struggled for two months but it has started producing again. And now they have found some footing in games beyond regulation.

"I have a lot of confidence in our team if we're going into a shootout because I like our shooters and I like our goaltender," Colorado coach Jared Bednar said.

--Field Level Media

Updated February 28, 2019

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