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Well Rested

by Josh Plummer / Vancouver Canucks
Alain Vigneault and his coaching staff rewarded their red hot Canucks players with two full days off from on-ice practices after their 2-0 shutout performance over the clawless Nashville Predators on Wednesday night.

The full team won't put the skates on again until their open to the public practice session at GM Place on Saturday morning at 11 am - though a few of the injured still strapped them on for some conditioning out at 8-Rinks.

Not to worry, though.

The last time the Canucks had an extended break from on-ice drills was during the Christmas holidays - Vancouver fans might remember how well the team performed upon the return to their regular regimen.

The Canucks reeled off seven straight wins and won 10 of 12, including a sweep of Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa on their Eastern road trip before narrowly falling to the Buffalo Sabres in overtime.

Since the holidays, the Canucks have been on a breakneck pace of 28-5-5.

The mini break couldn't come at a better time for Vancouver. This month has been like the Canucks version of "March Madness" with 15 games over 31 nights and practices sandwiched in between - their equipment has hardly even had a chance to dry.

"This will be the last time we'll have any time to really have a break," said Brendan Morrison after the Canucks win against the Preds. "We don't play Saturday, so we've got three days between games. Although we're going well, it's still nice to get away from the game - I think it's good timing for it."

With eight games left on the schedule, including three against the surging Colorado Avalanche - the Canucks can cool their jets before their final push for the Northwest Division title and their much anticipated post season when days off will be few and far between.

"It's going to be good to rest the body a little bit and get ready to go back to work," said Roberto Luongo after the Nashville game where he earned his 43rd win and fourth shutout of the season. "We're going to take a couple days to really relax and refocus before we get back on the ice on Saturday and get ready for Sunday's game."

Saturday's open practice at The Garage proves Vancouver has some of the most loyal and Canuck crazed fans in the entire NHL. All 17,000 tickets were snapped up quicker than it takes Fin to finish a bucket of squid.

The Canucks will give their fans an up close look at how they'll prepare for their Sunday night tilt versus the Avalanche. Fans are encouraged to arrive early - the doors to the general seating event open at 10 am.

With the Wild on an eight-game run and only one point behind the Canucks in the Northwest Division, the stretch drive should be a bitter scrap to the wire.

Though the Canucks hold a game-in-hand over Minnesota, they'll have to get through the searing hot Colorado Avalanche three times before the finish line, while the Wild have Calgary twice and the Avalanche once in their next five.

"For me those two games against Colorado, with the way the schedule seems to be right now, those are probably going to be the two games that will assure us of a playoff spot, or mean that we'll have to keep battling for that official playoff position," says Vigneault.

"Colorado still has a chance to be in it and they've been playing really well lately. All our games against them this year have been really hard-fought. They've been one of the best offensive teams in the league, even though they're really young, so hopefully we can play well against them and get them out of the equation."

The Canucks are 2-3 versus the Avalanche this season, but have won the last two meetings. All but one of the games have been decided by a single goal.
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