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SHARKS (26-9-6) at AVALANCHE (25-11-4)
TV: CSN-CA, ALT
Last 10: San Jose 7-3-0; Colorado 4-2-4
Season series: This is the second of four games between the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche. Logan Couture scored the decisive goal in a shootout as the Sharks edged the Avalanche 5-4 at SAP Center on Dec. 23.
Big story: Is there a better story in the NHL at the moment than Bracken Kearns? It's safe to say the Sharks don't think so. A minor-league journeyman who played in a total of 13 regular-season and Stanley Cup Playoff games prior to this season, the 32-year-old now has goals in three straight games after scoring in San Jose's 5-1 win Thursday against the Edmonton Oilers.
"I know what he's gone through and I've seen him work so hard every day, and he's a guy that you admire, especially from me," Couture said in the San Jose Mercury News. "Now he's getting a shot and scores in three straight games. It's incredible. It gives you chills thinking about it."
Sharks: This is the start of a three-game trip for San Jose, which has lost six of its past eight on the road. The Sharks had little trouble with the Oilers on home ice, however, racing to a four-goal lead by the middle of the second period and getting goals from five different players. Couture also scored for a third consecutive game and Joe Pavelski had a goal in his first game since being named to the U.S. team for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. But Kearns was the talk of the locker room once again.
"Another lucky one and I'll take it and try to keep it going," Kearns said. "I thought we played well [Thursday] and had some sustained pressure. They talked about a quick release against this goalie [Edmonton's Devan Dubnyk] and that's what I tried to do there and on a few other shots. That one found the back of the net."
Avalanche: Semyon Varlamov turned in another strong outing Thursday, making 29 saves as Colorado snapped a four-game winning streak by the visiting Philadelphia Flyers with a 2-1 victory. Jamie McGinn and Ryan O'Reilly staked the Avalanche to a 2-0 lead halfway through the game and Varlamov did the rest.
Varlamov ranks in the top 10 in the League with his 18 wins and .928 save percentage, which would be a career high and is a significant improvement over the .903 he posted in going 11-21-3 last season. A stop he made on ex-teammate Steve Downie had his teammates awestruck.
"I don't even know how he stopped that," center Paul Stastny said. "He pushes the pad and somehow holds on with that leg strength. Saves like that and being super flexible make him who he is."
Who's hot: Pavelski has four goals and four assists during a six-game point streak for the Sharks. Joe Thornton hasn't scored a goal since Dec. 3 but has 10 assists during his own six-game point streak. … McGinn and O'Reilly have goals in consecutive games for the Avalanche. Gabriel Landeskog has three goals and three assists during a five-game point streak.