Paul Stastny could not have been playing better for the Colorado Avalanche right before having his appendix removed last month.
|Paul Stastny should be good to go against the Canucks tonight. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
The Avalanche expect to have their leading scorer back on the ice after missing nine games, when they visit the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.
Colorado (29-21-5) has been able to hold its own with Stastny out of the lineup, going 4-3-2 with him on an injured list that also includes stars Joe Sakic and Ryan Smyth.
The Avalanche are in the mix with Minnesota, Calgary and Vancouver (27-21-7) for first place in the crowded Northwest Division.
Stastny, who has 17 goals and 32 assists, had two goals and three assists in his last three games prior to undergoing an appendectomy. He had a goal and an assist in the Avalanche's 3-0 victory at Tampa Bay on Jan. 15 - his most recent game.
Stastny has two goals and nine assists in 11 career games versus Vancouver, which is 2-1-0 against the Avalanche this season.
While the Avalanche will certainly welcome back the second-year star, Colorado is 3-1-1 since losing two in a row, The Avalanche won 3-1 at San Jose on Wednesday.
Jose Theodore made 30 saves in his first game on the ice since missing three with back spasms. Theodore, who is 6-2-1 with a 2.05 goals-against average in his last eight games, didn't seem too rusty in his return.
"They came at me pretty hard, so it was a good test for my back," Theodore said. "It's hard to take those extra days off, but it was the smart thing to do. ... It's about finally playing the way I've always played in my career. When I was traded (from Montreal in March 2006), everybody knew I wasn't playing like I should. But with a lot of hard work, I'm getting to a level of being comfortable."
Theodore, however, has lost three of his last four decisions versus Vancouver, including a 2-1 overtime loss there on Nov. 9 in his only appearance versus the Canucks this season.
On Wednesday, Ben Guite, Jeff Finger and rookie T.J. Hensick each scored goals, while Brett Clark added two assists for Colorado, which has won five of its last six road games.
"We're moving the puck well, entering the zone with speed and making smart (plays)," said Hensick, who has five goals in his last three contests.
Vancouver, meanwhile, looks to build off a 2-1 win at Atlanta on Thursday. The victory snapped a streak of four straight losses by one-goal margins, and concluded a 1-1-2 road trip for the Canucks.
Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows scored in the third period to rally the Canucks, who got 27 saves from Roberto Luongo.
"We really wanted to find a way to win tonight," Burrows said. "After that second period we got together and played a really strong third period."
Sedin, who's tied with twin brother Henrik for the team lead with 54 points, has two goals and two assists versus Colorado this season.
Luongo, who snapped a three-game losing streak Thursday, has been in goal for all three meetings against Colorado in 2007-08, compiling a 2.32 GAA versus the Avalanche.