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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Sunday, March 18th (All times eastern)

San Jose Sharks (44-25-5) at Colorado Avalanche (36-29-6), 8 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Both the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche attempt to maintain their recent outstanding play when the two teams get together for a key Western Conference encounter tonight at the Pepsi Center.

San Jose comes in on a four-game win streak and has posted a 6-0-1 record over its last seven games. The Avalanche have been just as hot, having earned seven victories in their eight most recent outings.

Defense has been the driving force behind the Sharks' run. The club has shut out the opposition in four of their six latest wins and has yielded a mere four goals during this seven-game stretch of success.

San Jose put together another blanking on Friday, when Vesa Toskala turned away 35 shots for his fourth shutout of the season in a 3-0 home triumph over Columbus.

Joe Thornton opened the scoring with a first-period goal, extending the reigning Hart Trophy winner's scoring streak to six games. Thornton has 12 points (3 goals, 9 assists) during the run.

Ryane Clowe and Scott Hannan also scored for San Jose, which is currently tied with Minnesota for fifth place in the Western Conference standings with 91 points.

Colorado is on the outside of the postseason picture, but is gaining ground fast. The Avalanche's recent roll has moved the club within six points of Calgary, holders of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

Paul Stastny has played a major role in Colorado's resurgence. On Saturday, the 21-year-old extended his NHL-record rookie scoring streak to 20 games with a two-goal performance in the Avs' 6-3 road triumph over Phoenix.

Joe Sakic scored twice and assisted on another for Colorado, while Andrew Brunette finished with a pair of assists in the win.

Avs netminder Peter Budaj stopped 31 shots, including all 11 he faced in the decisive third period.

Stastny has now compiled 11 goals and 18 assists during his run, the longest in the NHL since Ottawa's Dany Heatley had a point in 22 straight games from October 5-November 29, 2005.

San Jose has taken five of the last six meetings between these clubs, including two of three games played in 2006-07. The Sharks were also victorious in their only previous trip to Denver this season, coming away with a 4-3 decision on November 15.

03/18 11:19:55 ET

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