Avalanche make playoffs with 3-2 win over San Jose

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DENVER (AP) - The Colorado Avalanche are back in the postseason.

But they may have to move on without Matt Duchene.

If Semyon Varlamov continues his breakout season, the Avalanche might not miss their leading scorer.

Varlamov had a season-high 47 saves and Colorado clinched its first playoff berth in four years with a 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday.

Center John Mitchell had a goal and an assist for the Avalanche, who moved past Chicago into second place in the Central Division with 100 points in what might have been a costly victory.

Duchene suffered a left knee injury on the opening shift Saturday when he collided with teammate Jamie McGinn near the Sharks blue line. He fell to the ice and then gingerly skated to the bench.

He is scheduled to have an MRI on Sunday.

“We’ll know more after that,” coach Patrick Roy said. “It’s not good news for him and it’s not good news for us. It’s the way it’s been all year.”

Despite the injuries - Colorado has lost top-six forwards Alex Tanguay and P.A. Parenteau - the constant has been Varlamov. He came through again against the relentless Sharks, who threw 74 shots at him. Colorado blocked 25.

“I’m guessing he was the first star,” San Jose coach Todd McLellan said of Varlamov. “He should be.”

Down a player, Varlamov made up for it with an outstanding performance. He stopped 20 shots in the third period, many during the final minutes when the Sharks were trying to get the equalizer.

His 37 wins are the most in the NHL and a big reason the Avalanche reached 100 points for the first time in 10 years.

“He’s been tremendous,” captain Gabe Landeskog said. “I think it’s safe to say we wouldn’t be here without him.”

Colorado was a mainstay in the playoffs when the franchise moved to Denver in 1995. After winning the Stanley Cup for a second time in 2001, the Avalanche reached the Western Conference finals the following season before heading into lean times.

Now they have a chance to return to the glory years with a young, eager group.

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