ColoradoAvalanche.com web staff contributed to this report.
AVALANCHE (52-21-7) at SHARKS (49-22-9)
TV: Altitude, NBCSN, CSN California Plus
Last 10: Colorado 8-1-1; San Jose 4-4-2
Season series: This is the fourth and final game between these teams, with the Avalanche having won two of the first three, including a 3-2 win at Pepsi Center on March 29.
Big story: Colorado moved into first place in the Central Division for the first time since Nov. 14 and guaranteed itself home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 4-2 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. The Avs scored three times in the third period to break a 1-1 tie and match their team record for wins in a season with 52.
San Jose, which is guaranteed to finish second in the Pacific Division, is locked into a first-round series against the Los Angeles Kings, and it has home-ice advantage.
Avalanche: Colorado has earned a point in nine straight games (8-0-1) and hasn't lost in regulation since March 21 as it has made up a nine-point deficit to move ahead of the pack in the Central. Center Paul Stastny scored twice in the win against the Canucks, and Semyon Varlamov made 38 saves to earn his 41st win, moving him past coach Patrick Roy for the most wins in a season by a Colorado goalie.
"I'm pretty lucky to have Patrick as coach, and Francois Allaire is one of the best goalie coaches in the world, for sure," Varlamov said. "He helped me a lot this year, changing my style a little bit. Those two have done a great job."
Varlamov is 41-14-6, with a .927 save percentage, which ranks him third in the NHL. Roy said last week that backup Reto Berra would start Friday's game against the Sharks, and he reiterated that plan last night in Vancouver.
"Tomorrow Berra's playing, Jiggy (Jean-Sebastien Giguere) will be back up, and we'll see," he said. "If we need a win on Sunday against the Ducks, we'll put Varly in."
Colorado wraps up its regular-season schedule Sunday at Anaheim, a game that could determine the top seed in the Western Conference.
Sharks: San Jose has dropped two games in a row and is 2-4-0 in its past six. A 5-2 road loss to Anaheim on Wednesday allowed the Ducks to clinch the Pacific Division title and set up the Sharks' series with the Kings.
"We know we got the Kings -- it's going to be a great series," captain Joe Thornton said. "It would've been great [to win the Pacific], but you know, we're in the playoffs, we know who we're going to play, and it's going to be a heck of a first round, so I can't wait."
San Jose netminder Antti Niemi was pulled midway through the second period Wednesday after he allowed three goals on 19 shots, and he is 2-3-0 with a .885 save percentage in his past five starts. Alex Stalock stopped nine of 10 shots in relief.
"It probably wasn't Nemo's best game, but we have faith in him," Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said. "[Stalock] has done a tremendous job this year, so we have faith in our goaltending. They're going to have to play well for us to get where we want to go. That's the furthest thing from my mind right now."
San Jose concludes its regular season Saturday at the Phoenix Coyotes.
Who's hot: Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie, who scored the game-winner Thursday, has a goal in each of the past two games and three in the past five. Stastny has four goals in his past four games and 12 points during Colorado's nine-game streak without a regulation loss … Sharks forward Logan Couture has two goals in his past three games, and forward Joe Pavelski has at least a point in six of his past seven games (five goals, five assists).
Injury report: Colorado center Matt Duchene (knee) is out, while forwards PA Parenteau (knee) and Cody McLeod (ankle) and defenseman Cory Sarich (back) are day-to-day. Parenteau might play Friday. … San Jose forwards Raffi Torres (knee) and Tomas Hertl (knee) are on Injured Reserve, and forward Adam Burish (hand) will likely miss the rest of the regular season but could return for the playoffs.
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