The Colorado Avalanche plays its last game before the All-Star break on Wednesday night, hosting the Vancouver Canucks at Pepsi Center. It's the third and final meeting of the season between the former Northwest Division rivals. The Avs are 0-1-1 in the first two games, falling 3-2 in a shootout at home on Nov. 26 and by the same score in regulation on Jan. 2 at Vancouver.
Colorado is 56-40-16 all-time against the Canucks and 28-18-9 as the home team in the series. The Avs have lost the last three at Pepsi Center but have earned at least a point in six of the last nine meetings.
Last Time Out
The Avalanche entered the third period of Monday night's game against the San Jose Sharks with the score knotted up at one, but a historic four-goal outburst from Patrick Marleau helped the Sharks hand the Avs their sixth straight loss. Colorado scored a power-play goal--the 193rd man-advantage tally of Jarome Iginla's career--and held the Sharks scoreless on four opportunities with the extra skater.
The Canucks fought back from an early 2-0 deficit against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday but fell 4-2 in Chicago. Vancouver was outshot 35-28, including an 18-9 margin in the first period where the Blackhawks built their lead. Ryan Miller finished with 31 saves.
Last Time They Met
Colorado lost 3-2 in Vancouver on Jan. 2. Trailing 2-1 entering the final 20 minutes, Tyson Barrie tied the game for the Avs near the midway point of the period, but Sven Baertschi's power-play tally with less than three minutes remaining in regulation lifted the Canucks to the win.
Video: Preview of Avalanche vs. Canucks
What to Watch
The Third Period
Colorado has entered the third period with a one-goal lead in three of its last four games, but has come up short in each. Conversely, in San Jose on Saturday night, the Avs trailed entering the final 20 minutes of play and scored to force overtime.
"We're getting to the point as a team [where] we expect more from our guys than we got last night in the third period because we kind of got away from our game plan and what was giving us some success in our pace of play over these last seven games, and we know we can be better than that in the third period," head coach Jared Bednar said after Tuesday's practice at Family Sports Center. "I think it's a focus [issue]. It's not moving away from what's working just to try and create a goal. We have to stick with what we're doing, and it has been working."
Colorado's 54 goals against in the third period is the league's third-highest total, tied with the New York Islanders and Vancouver. The third period is also the highest-scoring frame (46 goals) for the Canucks, while their 20 goals for in the first period is a league low.
Canucks on the Rise
Since the NHL's Christmas break, the Canucks have posted an 8-2-3 record, and their 19 points are tied for third in the league in that span. They've picked up at least a point in five of their last six outings. Defense has been a huge factor, as Vancouver has allowed a league-low 25 goals during that stretch.
Player to Watch
Colorado: Center Carl Soderberg
In the absence of Matt Duchene, who ranks second in the league in faceoff win percentage, Soderberg finished with a 73 percent success rate at the faceoff circle in Monday night's game and was a perfect 4-for-4 in the offensive zone.
Vancouver: Goaltender Ryan Miller
In the 10 games he's started since Christmas, Miller has posted seven wins and two shutouts. His 1.67 save percentage ranks second only to Anaheim's John Gibson (of goalies who have played five or more games) in that time frame and his .946 save percentage is tied with Gibson for the league lead during that span.
Calvin Pickard is expected to be back in net on Wednesday for his third career start against the Canucks, all of which have been this season. Duchene, who missed Monday's contest with an illness, could potentially return to the lineup.
"The trainers will be checking in with him later today to see how he's feeling," said Bednar. "If he starts feeling better, then we'll get the sense that he's turning the corner and will be able to play."
Rene Bourque and Tyson Barrie, who have missed two and three games, respectively, with lower-body injuries, both skated on Tuesday but are doubtful to appear in Wednesday night's contest.
Wednesday's game starts at 7:30 p.m. MT, and tickets are still available. Altitude TV will carry the television broadcast, and fans can tune into Altitude Sports Radio AM950 or visit at ColoradoAvalanche.com to listen to the action.