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Sharks hope Pavelski can return to clinch vs. Avs

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The San Jose Sharks spent the first round digging out of a 3-1 hole against Vegas and needed a furious rally in Game 7 to advance past the Golden Knights.

For the first time in these playoffs the Sharks have control of a series with two chances to close out an opponent and move on to the Western Conference finals. Their first opportunity comes Monday night in Game 6 against the host Colorado Avalanche.

San Jose could be getting a key player back for the pivotal game in Denver. Captain Joe Pavelski, who has yet to play in the series because of a concussion suffered against Vegas, has been skating and is close to returning. He made an appearance in street clothes during the Sharks' 2-1 win in Game 5 on Saturday night, waving a rally towel and pumping up the crowd in San Jose.

"No one knew he was going to do that," center Logan Couture said after the game. "That was as loud as this building gets. I mean, that was reminiscent of Game 7 against Vegas, how loud that was. So, pretty cool moment. Had goosebumps on the ice."

Getting a top-line center back will make things even tougher for the Avalanche, whose underdog run is in jeopardy of ending as they trail 3-2 in the series. Colorado is trying to reach the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2002 but will have to win Monday and then a Game 7 back in San Jose.

The Avalanche have given the Sharks a tough time in this series, but Saturday it was San Jose that controlled the game and bottled up Colorado's best player. Oilers center Nathan MacKinnon, who came into Saturday with an eight-game playoff point streak, was held scoreless and managed just one shot.

Despite that, the Avalanche had a 1-0 lead late in the second period but couldn't hold it. Now they head home to try to keep the series alive and their improbable postseason run going.

"We know what's at stake here and know how important the next one is going to be," Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog said after Saturday's loss. "So if anything we have to make sure our desperation level is up and urgency and intensity and all those things."

The Avalanche will likely need another big game from goaltender Philipp Grubauer. The 27-year-old started the season as Semyon Varlamov's backup but took over the starting role with a string of strong performances late in the season. He made 37 saves Saturday, a playoff career-high, and has a 2.16 goals-against average in 10 postseason games.

A Colorado win Monday will result in just the second Game 7 between the teams and first since the 2002 Western Conference semifinals. The Sharks also had a 3-2 lead in that series but lost Game 6 in overtime, and then the Avalanche took the series with a 1-0 win in Game 7.

The difference this year is San Jose has home-ice advantage -- and possibly a return of Pavelski.

"(Joe Thornton) said it before the series," Couture said. "We want to play as long as we can to give him a chance, and that's what we're trying to do."

--Field Level Media

Updated May 6, 2019

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