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Avalanche Vs. Sharks: Colorado Now In Spoiler Mode

You can now close the book on the 2010-2011 Colorado Avalanche. All hope of a surprise playoff berth for a second straight year are now out the window as injuries and bad luck have crippled a team that started the season with great expectations. Now, Avalanche fans watch without any expectation for playoff success, but with plenty of hope for the new faces on the team. Brian Elliott, acquired in the Craig Anderson trade with Ottawa, will get yet another start in net tonight -- a part of his audition for a role with the team next year as a backup. Erik Johnson continues to help the defense and special teams improve, and Jay McClement has been a joy to watch on the penalty kill.

At this point in the season, it's better for us as fans to root for our team to lose close games and gain a better draft pick for June than to go on a hot streak and disrupt their currently excellent draft position. It's a difficult pill to swallow for loyal fans, but a necessary one. (Remember the last time this happened, the Avalanche drafted a certain player named Matt Duchene. Temporary failure now can have long lasting ramifications on a franchise's future.)

With that mindset, Colorado continues their West Coast road trip against the scalding San Jose Sharks, who have vaulted themselves into solid playoff contention. Goalie Antti Niemi, who signed a four year extension with San Jose earlier today, has been a key cog in their second half emergence. Top forwards Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have also been their usual stellar selves.

So what should Colorado fans hope for? How about another exciting game, on par with Sunday's loss at Anaheim. Close play, exciting finish...ahd another loss to improve draft stock. It's the reality we are currently living in.

Brian Elliott starts in net, as does Antti Niemi for San Jose.

Puck drops at 8:30 p.m. MST.