Struggling Avs return home to battle Sharks

( – The Colorado Avalanche hope to take advantage of an
upcoming stretch of home games to get on track, beginning with Tuesday night’s
clash against the San Jose Sharks.

The Avalanche have lost seven of nine to start the season and will play two
straight and five of their next six at Pepsi Center. They lost their fourth
road game in a row on Sunday, falling 2-1 to the Winnipeg Jets in overtime.

The Jets scored the winning goal with 25 seconds left on the clock as Bryan
Little deflected Andrew Ladd’s shot and the puck trickled through goaltender
Semyon Varlamov.

Jamie McGinn scored a power-play goal late in the first period and Varlamov
made 26 saves as the Avs fell to 0-3 in overtime.

“I thought we had a lot of good chances in the first,” Avalanche head coach
Patrick Roy said.

Defenseman Erik Johnson will play tonight for Colorado despite missing the end
of Sunday’s game with a head injury. He took a big hit in the third period,
but passed a concussion test and said on Monday that he would have been able
to return to the game if there had been enough time.

“I feel a lot better. I was a little bit worried when it happened,” Johnson
told Colorado’s website. “Went through the whole concussion protocol and came
out good. Felt a lot better last night and this morning and will be able to
play (Tuesday).

“When you go through the protocol you go through a series of tests and pass
the tests. It takes about 30-35 minutes, by that time I wasn’t able to come
back into the game. If it happened in the first period I might have been able
to come back.”

Varlamov will start tonight for Colorado and is 5-3-2 versus the Sharks in 10
games (9 starts) with a 3.01 goals against average and .916 save percentage.

The Sharks snapped a four-game losing streak with a 4-1 win over Anaheim on
Sunday, halting the Ducks’ seven-game winning streak.

Antti Niemi made 33 saves, giving up a late third-period tally, while Brent
Burns, Joe Pavelski, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Tommy Wingels all scored. Patrick
Marleau and Logan Couture each had two assists.

“It was a big win for us. We needed a win any way we could get it,” San Jose
head coach Todd McLellan said.

The game got rather chippy at the end, with the two clubs eventually combining
for 165 penalty minutes. The Sharks lost enforcer John Scott to a two-game
suspension as he left the bench during a line change and immediately started a
fight with Ducks forward Tim Jackman.

Scott was given a two-minute minor for instigating, a major for fighting and a
game misconduct and will also miss Thursday’s game in Minnesota.

Niemi is likely to start tonight for the Sharks and has solid career numbers
against the Avalanche, going 7-1-3 with a 2.61 GAA and .908 save percentage in
12 meetings.

The Sharks and Avs split four meetings last season, with each team winning
twice at home. In fact, the hosting team has won 10 straight and 13 of the
last 14 encounters.