AVALANCHE (10-2-2) at CANUCKS (7-7-0)
Colorado 8-1-1; Vancouver 6-4-0
These Northwest Division rivals meet for the second time this season. We got an early indication Colorado might be for real when it followed up a victory over San Jose on opening night with a 3-0 win over Vancouver at the Pepsi Center on Oct. 3. Craig Anderson had 35 saves for his first shutout in an Avalanche jersey, while Wojtek Wolski scored the game-winning goal. Paul Stastny
and Darcy Tucker added power-play tallies.
The key to this game could lie with the goaltenders. Peter Budaj is back with the team after recovering from the H1N1 virus, so it's possible he could see action and end Anderson's streak of 14 consecutive starts. At the other end, the Canucks have played two games without Roberto Luongo
, who's out with a broken rib. Andrew Raycroft was excellent against Los Angeles but got pulled after two periods after giving up four goals to Anaheim on Friday.
It had been over three weeks since Colorado lost a game in regulation, but its 8-0-2 stretch came to an end Friday night in San Jose with a 3-1 defeat. The Avalanche were due to drop one sooner or later, but they also can't be very happy with the way they played, allowing 46 shots to the Sharks and relying on the continued brilliance in net by Anderson to keep them within striking distance.
"He gave us a chance to win in a game where, quite frankly, we shouldn't have been in it," coach Joe Sacco told the Denver Post. "When you play in your own end, you're not going to get anything going offensively. It starts with turnovers in the neutral zone. Because we don't get it deep and sustain any pressure in the offensive zone, we don't get into our forecheck and we play on our heels. That's what happened tonight."
An early 2-0 lead against Anaheim didn't hold up, as Vancouver gave up seven unanswered goals, including the go-ahead, shorthanded tally by ex-Canuck forward Mike Brown. Cory Schneider
played the third period in relief of Raycroft and was victimized for three goals. With Luongo sidelined, the team needs to raise its level of play and was unable to match the intensity of a Ducks squad that had lost four in a row on home ice.
"We tried to generate what we could with what we had," defenseman Willie Mitchell said. "The deck was stacked against us a little bit. We know their record is not great so far this year, but they're a tough team to play against with two pretty good lines."
Stastny had three goals, seven points and a plus-4 rating in four games prior to the San Jose loss, while Wolski had three goals and a plus-4 rating in two games before he was also held off the scoresheet by the Sharks.
Likewise for the Canucks, their hottest players of late had quiet nights against Anaheim, but Henrik Sedin
had three goals and five points in the three previous games.
Colorado is without forwards T.J. Galiardi (ankle), Darcy Tucker (concussion) Cody McLeod
(eye) and Matt Hendricks (groin), as well as defensemen Tom Preissing (knee) and Ruslan Salei (back).
In addition to Luongo, Vancouver's litany of injuries includes forwards Pavol Demitra (shoulder), Daniel Sedin
(foot), Alexandre Bolduc (shoulder), Ryan Johnson (concussion), Jannik Hansen
(hand) and Kyle Wellwood (foot).
Raycroft shared goaltending duties with Budaj in Colorado last season -- they could be facing one another at opposite ends of the ice Sunday. Raycroft, who won a career-high 37 games for Toronto in 2006-07, was 12-16-0 in his one season with the Avalanche, posting a 3.14 goals-against average and .892 save percentage.
The best October in franchise history is over, now the Avalanche finish off a stretch that has seen them play 11 of their first 15 games on the road before returning home for four of their next five.
-- Brian Hunter, NHL.com