Avalanche aim for breakthrough against Canucks
Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 11:00 AMAVALANCHE (28-25-4) at CANUCKS (35-15-6)
TV: ALT (HD), SNET-P (HD)
Colorado 4-4-2; Vancouver 7-0-3
Fourth of six meetings between these Northwest Division rivals. The Canucks have won all three matchups so far, blanking the Avalanche in the first two by a combined 9-0 score, though Colorado did manage a point out of the last game, a 3-2 shootout loss on Feb. 4. Daniel Sedin
recorded a hat trick and Cory Schneider
came on for an injured Roberto Luongo
to complete the shutout effort as Vancouver won 6-0 on Dec. 6 at Rogers Arena.
Five division races in the NHL remain at least somewhat up for grabs coming down the stretch, but the Canucks have officially run away with the Northwest, opening up a double-digits lead in points. About the only question remaining over the final third of the regular season is whether they can secure the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and perhaps even defend the Presidents' Trophy. If the season ended today, they would be the only Northwest team to even make the playoffs, but the Avalanche are one of three division rivals who have a chance at changing that with a strong finish.
Since being blanked on home ice by Minnesota to begin the month, Colorado has gone 2-0-2 over its last four games. The Avalanche got a four-game road trip started by playing overtime against one of the West's surprise teams this season, the Blues, and had to settle for a point with a 3-2 overtime loss Saturday. All the scoring in regulation came during the first period, with Erik Johnson
, a No. 1 pick by St. Louis in 2006, netting the tying goal against his old club with under a minute left. That's how it stayed until Carlo Colaiacovo scored in OT for the Blues.
"That's a good team that really wears you out in its own building," Johnson said. "Obviously, we'd like to get two but we'll take the one point."
Once the postseason arrives Vancouver will have to do without the shootout, but for now the Canucks are excelling there. Five of their last six games have ended via the penalty-shot tiebreaker, and they've won three of those to set the franchise record with seven shootout victories this season. The latest came Monday, as the Canucks held off the Coyotes 2-1 and ended their five-game winning streak in a six-round shootout in which they scored four times. Ryan Kesler
scored the decisive goal and Luongo stopped Boyd Gordon on the final Phoenix attempt.
"It's a pressure situation and it's good to be in those sometimes," captain Henrik Sedin
said. "We keep winning and we have to take that as a positive. We're in every game, we're usually up and we're getting those one-goal wins that we're going to need in the playoffs as well."
Who's Hot: Ryan O'Reilly
has 1 goal and 3 assists during a four-game points streak for the Avalanche. Gabriel Landeskog
has 2 goals and 1 assist during a three-game points streak. … David Booth
has 2 goals and 1 assist during a three-game points streak for the Canucks. Luongo is 5-0-3 in his last eight starts with a .933 save percentage.
Colorado forward Matt Duchene
(knee) is on injured reserve. … Vancouver defenseman Keith Ballard
(neck/headaches) and forward Dale Weise
(foot) have each missed the past three games. Forward Chris Higgins
(illness) could be activated off injured reserve after missing the last six games.
Avalanche captain Milan Hejduk
is set to play in his 968th game with the franchise, which will break a tie with Adam Foote and put him second all-time between Joe Sakic's 1,378 games. … Alexandre Burrows
leads the Canucks with a plus-18 rating, is tied for the team lead with 5 game-winning goals and is five behind top scorer Daniel Sedin
with 19 goals.
Duchene has accompanied Colorado on its road trip and is skating, making it possible the third-year forward could return within the next week.
"He looked good out there. It's good to see him with a smile on his face, and hopefully he can be back with us real soon," teammate Paul Stastny
said in the Denver Post.