SAN JOSE, Calif. — As the San Jose Sharks survived back-to-back overtime games that left captain Joe Pavelski bloodied and dazed, and most of his teammates drained emotionally and physically, the Colorado Avalanche sat back and watched.
Whether that will have an impact when the teams meet in the second round starting Friday night in San Jose remains to be seen.
“I’m sure they smell a little blood in the water with us going seven games and overtime,” coach Peter DeBoer said Thursday. “I’m sure they’ll be ready to go.”
The Avalanche raced past the Western Conference’s top team in the regular season by winning the final four games of a five-game series against Calgary. After getting shut out in the opener, Colorado outscored the Flames 17-7 over the final four games thanks in large part to the dynamic duo of Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, who combined for eight goals and nine assists in those last four games.
Colorado has had six days off and has its own concerns about shaking off any rust and getting back to playoff intensity.
Exhaustion & Emotion vs Rest & Rust
“I think they’re a little bit tired,” Colorado defenceman Nikita Zadorov said. “They come in on a good mood, came back, crazy game, an emotional game for them. It’s a new round. It doesn’t matter anymore. We had a great rest, we had a few practices. We’re hungry to play. We’re ready to go.”
The key for the Sharks will be rebounding from the emotions of the past week as they battled back from 3-1 down in the first round against Vegas to advance.
They needed to survive a double-overtime thriller on the road in Game 6 and then an even more draining clincher. They rallied from 3-0 down in the third period by scoring four goals on the power play after Pavelski was knocked out when he crashed to the ice head first following a hit from Cody Eakin.
San Jose won 5-4 in overtime but will likely be without Pavelski, at least for the opener. He was at the practice facility Thursday but didn’t practice. He is listed as day to day but DeBoer said he’s unlikely to play Game 1.
The Sharks hope they can use that momentum to carry them to a fast start in the second round.
“We know there’s going to be energy in the building tomorrow night,” forward Logan Couture said. “That’s a given. It may not be the same energy that was there the end of that Game 7. But they’ll be energized and they’ll give us energy. We went through a hard seven-game series. Guys got hurt, a little tired yesterday, a little tired today. We’re looking for that energy from our fans tomorrow night to help us out.”
Here are some other things to watch:
San Jose’s turnaround in the first round coincided with shutdown defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s return from an undisclosed injury that sidelined him for two-plus games. San Jose won all four games when Vlasic was healthy as he played a big part in neutralizing Vegas’ potent line of Paul Stastny, Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty. He’ll have his hands full again this round against MacKinnon’s line.
“Every time MacKinnon touched the puck I thought he was going to score or create a scoring opportunity,” Sharks defenceman Brenden Dillon said.
The Avalanche may use seven defencemen with the return of Samuel Girard. The 20-year-old missed the last three games of the Calgary series with an upper body injury. Girard was full go Thursday at practice.
Girard appeared in all 82 games during the regular season and finished second among Avalanche defencemen with 27 points (four goals, 23 assists).
While he was out, rookie Cale Makar stepped in and scored a goal in his debut in Game 3.
Pavelski isn’t the only Sharks player dealing with injuries. Forward Joonas Donskoi missed Game 7 after taking a hard hit the previous game and didn’t take part in team drills Thursday. Forward Melker Karlsson also didn’t practice and fourth-liner Micheal Haley practiced but is still banged up after taking a shot to his ankle. Donskoi, Karlsson and Haley are all game-time decisions but their potential absences could create opportunities for someone like Lukas Radil or Dylan Gambrell to get in the lineup.
Roller Coaster Ride
Sharks goalie Martin Jones struggled early in the series against Vegas, allowing 11 goals on 54 shots in Games 2 through 4. He was pulled before the second period in two of those games but DeBoer stuck with his starter and the move paid off. Jones posted a .946 save percentage over the final three games, including a franchise record 58 stops in the double-overtime win in Game 6.
Throw Out the Records
The Sharks swept the three-game season series against the Avalanche but that doesn’t mean much. Colorado also lost all three regular-season games to Calgary before beating the Flames in five games. Playing in San Jose has been particularly difficult for the Avalanche, who have one win in their last 19 regular-season games at the Shark Tank.
AP Sports Writer Pat Graham in Denver contributed to this report
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Josh Dubow, The Associated Press