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Sharks Gameday: Disappearing Acts

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Colorado Avalanche (10-1-2) at San Jose Sharks (8-4-1), 7:30 PST

All sorts of disappearing acts are going on these days, huh? Like Peter Budaj, the Avs goaltender who won't be making the trip to San Jose today because the power of Ned Flanders wasn't enough to overcome the swine flu. (Or maybe it was the wrath of Ned, as Budaj added noted sinner Altair from Assassin's Creed -- a good choice, but Altair's no Big Boss when it comes to legendary video game killers.) Or the Sharks forwards, which have been increasingly thin after seeing injuries hit key guys on the top three lines. Or Ryane Clowe, who's getting paid a buttload of money (that's the technical term) to have two assists.

Or me, who disappeared from the BoC when time constraints went berserk due to family issues and an overloaded work schedule, only to return with Rudy Kelley's LA Freakin' Kings leading the division. WTF?

But you know what? Those LA Freakin' Kings aren't as hot as the Colorado Holy Shit Avalanche, who've only got one loss -- one loss! -- in their first 13 games. Them's Todd McLellan's First Year numbers.

Is it all because of Craig Anderson? No, but it's greater than 50%. While the wily young Avalanche players are certainly making an impact, you can't deny Anderson's ungodly (or un-Nedly) stats. Looking at the standings, you'll see that the Avs have the best goal differential in the league (44 for, 28 against), which means that the forwards are doing their part as well. In fact, a quick review of their stats and you'll see a pretty reasonable distribution of points for the forward group.

In comparison, the Sharks have the same amount of goals for and eight more goals against. Surprising? I'd say so, not just because Colorado's numbers are so damn good, but because the Sharks are scoring so many goals considering the number of forward injuries they're facing. However, a closer look reveals one of my early-season worries is coming true -- that the Sharks are very, very top heavy, and scoring depth will be an issue when the big guns go through their inevitable cold streak. The fact that Marleau's put up enough points to be one of the league's Stars of the Week when he's essentially skated with grinders for the last while is pretty remarkable, but it's a pace that he probably won't keep up.

You hope that guys like Ryan Vesce and Benn Ferriero will gain from their top-line experience and carry it through with them when Pavelski and Setoguchi come back. You hope that Torrey Mitchell, Ned love 'em, actually plays this season, and plays to his potential as a two-way center with scoring upside. You hope that Thornton and Marleau don't go cold at the same time.

As for tonight's game, I'm not one for claims filled with bravado and swagger -- I've seen enough of the Avs to know that they're playing with a lot of hustle and a little luck right now, and that's a winning combination. The key to all of this is getting to Anderson, who's seeing a lot of his many shots cleanly right now. Screen, screen, screen the goalie (I'm looking at you, Ryane Clowe, and your smidgen of confidence you got from your shootout goal) because even Dominik Hasek in his heyday couldn't block what he couldn't see.

Oh, and it'd be nice if Scott Hannan would take one of his good ol' holding penalties as a favor for his old team.

Prediction: Sharks 3, Avs 1. Goals by Boyle, Heatley, and Marleau (empty net).