The Vancouver Canucks (46-16-9), who are one point shy of clinching their third straight Northwest division title, host the struggling Colorado Avalanche (26-34-8) tonight at Rogers Arena.
It’s the 6th and final meeting between the two clubs, with Vancouver leading the season series 4-0-1.
The old adage of two teams heading in opposite directions is certainly applicable to these franchises, who in early January, were only separated by three points. Two months later and the firrst place Canucks hold a 40 point lead over the 15th place Avalanche.
With 101 points on the year, the Canucks are four points away from tying a franchise record for most points in a season with 105.
“It will be a good accomplishment for us, it’s obviously not the end goal were looking for and it’s not anything that will make us sit back and relax or take anything for granted, but it will be nice if it happens,” said Keith Ballard.
A win tonight also guarantees the Canucks 6th straight winning month to start the 2010-11 season, a feat never accomplished in franchise history.
The Canucks specialty teams is on a staggering pace of late, killing off 26 of 28 penalties and scoring 8 goals in their last 15 power play opportunities.
“Our power play been really clicking, it’s a threat every time it’s out there right now, it keeps the other team on their toes,” said Alex Burrows.
“I think the (our penalty killing) duo’s are really key, being able to read off each other really helps a lot and we’re making good reads. \We’ve had the same system that we’ve had the last few years, but we’re clearing the pucks and our goalies are making the big saves.”
Cory Schneider (13-3-2) gets the call in net. He won his only start against the Avalanche this season, stopping 33 of 34 shots in an early November 3-1 Canucks victory.
“The Avalanche have had some bad luck, some injuries and sometimes things just don’t go your way,” said Schneider. “They’ve had a stretch that’s been real tough on them but they still have skilled players.”
“They’re a good young team and sometimes teams like that a real dangerous, they don’t think too much they just go out and play and they have nothing to lose.”
Daniel Sedin, fresh of an NHL 2nd star of the week selection, is riding a six game point streak (6-5-11) and continues to lead with NHL with 90 points.
Sami Salo skated with the team this morning and will play tonight after missing most of last game against the Flames with a shoulder injury suffered in the first period.
“Sami is a great person, great teammate, he works hard and everybody knows our record when he’s in the lineup, and he’s in our lineup tonight,” said Coach Vigneault.
With the news that Sami Salo will play tonight, the Canucks have reassigned defenseman Yann Suave to the Manitoba Moose.
Both Tanner Glass and Kevin Bieksa are still listed as day-to-day. Tanner Glass took the morning skate off, while Bieksa skated with the team for the second day in a row.
“We’ll see how it feels the next few days and go from there,” said Bieksa. “I’m hoping tomorrow it will be better, there’s a little less pain every day, and hopefully I’ll be back soon”.
The Avalanche lead the NHL with 358 man games lost to injury this season. Tonight they’ll be without regulars Tomas Fleishmann, Milan Hejduk, T.J. Gagliardi, Peter Mueller, Kyle Quincey and Ryan Stoa for tonight’s matchup.
Henrik Sedin plays in his 800th NHL game tonight, all of them with the Vancouver Canucks. Henrik sits 4th all time on the franchise games played list behind three men who have their jersey’s hanging from the rafters: Trevor Linden (1140), Stan Smyl (896) and Markus Naslund (884).
Daniel Sedin is 6th on the franchise list with 776 games played.