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Sharks continue road trip against Avalanche

With Joe Thornton out for several weeks with a knee injury, the San Jose Sharks couldn't afford too many body blows as they battle for positioning in the Pacific Division.

Then Logan Couture took a puck to the face Friday night and it looked like San Jose would be down another key forward.

Fortunately for the Sharks, Couture returned for the end of the 3-1 win at Columbus and seemed to have avoided a major injury. He was also on the ice for San Jose's 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday.

"Nothing came out," Couture told the San Jose Mercury News, referring to his teeth. "But I'll probably end up having to do (some dental work) when we get back to San Jose."

That trip to the dentist will wait until the end of a current five-game road swing, with the penultimate game on Tuesday night at Colorado.

The Sharks' win over the Blue Jackets stopped a four-game slide and kept them in second place in the division, well behind the surprising Vegas Golden Knights.

San Jose (27-16-8) survived a rough January in which it allowed 46 goals. Things looked better in Columbus, and the Sharks hope to continue that play against the Avalanche on Tuesday night.

The task is tougher without Thornton, but the players are confident they can succeed until he gets back.

"We've got skilled players," Couture told the Mercury News. "Obviously, you can't replicate one of the best passers of this generation, but other guys can go out there and put pucks toward the net and that's how we're scoring our goals."

The Avalanche (28-19-4) haven't played a home game since Jan. 20 and just finished a six-game road trip 2-3-1. Like Vegas, Colorado is one of the surprise teams of the NHL this season after finishing last in the league in points (48) and wins (22) a year ago.

The Avalanche surpassed those marks by the midway point of the season when they reeled off 10 straight wins and got in the thick of the playoff race.

Heading into Tuesday's game, Colorado was a point behind Minnesota for the second wild card and had played one less game than the Wild.

But like the Sharks, things will be tough until they get their best player back. Center Nathan MacKinnon, who was second in the league in scoring when he suffered a left shoulder injury at Edmonton on Thursday, is expected to miss 2-4 weeks.

Alexander Kerfoot moved up to the top line with Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, and the Avalanche were able to pull out an overtime win over the Oilers. However, the offense stalled Saturday in Winnipeg in a 3-0 loss, the last game of the trip.

Rantanen is questionable for Tuesday because he is "banged up," coach Jared Bednar told hockeybuzz.com. That would leave the Avalanche without two of their top two scorers.

"It's not an ideal situation, but there's still a chance that he could play (Tuesday)," Bednar said of Rantanen, the Avalanche's second leading scorer with 50 points (17 goals, 33 assists) in 51 games. "We'll see how it goes in the morning."

The good news for Colorado is the return of top goaltender Semyon Varlamov. He played against Winnipeg, his first game since Jan. 2 because of a groin injury, and was solid. He will back up No. 2 goaltender Jonathan Bernier against San Jose.

The Avalanche are in the midst of 13 of 16 games away from home. Tuesday's game is a quick stop before a three-game swing through St. Louis, Carolina and Buffalo.

"We play a lot of games on the road coming up here, so we've got to bring the same intensity on the road that we've been bringing at home," Kerfoot told NHL.com.

Updated February 5, 2018

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