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Avalanche continue pursuit of Central, West titles

by Eric Goodman

AVALANCHE (51-21-7) at CANUCKS (35-33-11)


Last 10: Colorado 7-1-2; Vancouver 5-4-1

Season series: This is the last of three games. The Colorado Avalanche and Vancouver Canucks split the first two, with the Avalanche winning the most recent game 3-2 in overtime on March 27 at Pepsi Center.

Big story: The Canucks made a major move toward the future with the hiring of former captain Trevor Linden as president of hockey operations Wednesday. Vancouver is destined for its lowest full-season point total since the 1999-00 season when it earned 83 points and missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a fourth consecutive season. President and general manager Mike Gillis was fired by the Canucks on Monday, a day after the team was eliminated from playoff contention for the first time since the 2007-08 season.

"I'm passionate about the Canucks and I want to win, just like our fans," Linden said. "I believe in this team and share the organization's commitment to excellence on and off of the ice."

Team Scope:

Avalanche: Colorado continues its season-ending four-game road trip with a stop in Vancouver and can still catch the St. Louis Blues to win its first division title since the 2002-03 season. Despite a number of key offensive players missing time throughout the season, including current injuries to forwards PA Parenteau and Matt Duchene, the Avalanche can also catch the Anaheim Ducks for their first Western Conference title since the 2000-01 season.

The road trip has not fazed first-year coach Patrick Roy as his team easily handled the Edmonton Oilers in a 4-1 win Monday. The victory marked an Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques franchise record for most road wins in a regular season with 25.

"We have a team record for wins on the road, and our players deserve credit for that," Roy said. "They're playing hard every night, and every day they come on the ice and they're ready to play. It makes me extremely proud of them."

Goaltender Semyon Varlamov likely will start Thursday with a chance to earn the new franchise-record 41st win of the season, which would be one more than his coach Roy had as a player with the Avalanche in the 2000-01 season.

Canucks: Linden is considered the face of the franchise, as he was selected by Vancouver with the second pick in the 1988 NHL Draft and played 14 seasons for the Canucks, with seven as team captain. The former center shined brightest for Vancouver in the playoffs, where he holds team records for games (118), goals (34), assists (61) and points (95).

"We believe in Trevor's leadership abilities," Canucks Sports & Entertainment chairman Francesco Aquilini said. "His 20 years of NHL experience including seven as team captain, his role as NHLPA President, community leader and businessman offers a very special skill set; one that will positively shape the direction of this club in the future."

Who's hot: Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog has nine points (five goals, four assists) in the past eight games.

Injury report: Parenteau (knee) is expected to return to the Avalanche lineup Thursday, while Duchene (knee) remains out. Avalanche forward Cody McLeod (ankle) is doubtful. … Vancouver defenseman Christopher Tanev (hand) is out.

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