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Avs continue fight for eighth as Canucks go for sweep

by Brian Hunter
AVALANCHE (40-32-6) at CANUCKS (46-21-9)


Last 10:
Colorado 5-3-2; Vancouver 5-4-1

Season Series: Sixth and final meeting between these Northwest Division rivals, and the Canucks will be going for the sweep. They've outscored the Avalanche by an 18-5 margin to this point. Colorado has managed a pair of points via 3-2 losses in the shootout (Feb. 4) and overtime (March 24) at Pepsi Center.

Big Story:
Colorado picked an inopportune time to lose three in a row, but all is not lost for the Avalanche just yet. In fact, a win Wednesday and a loss by either the Kings or the Stars in their games and the Avs would vault back into the top eight in the Western Conference. The problem is Colorado will have only three regular-season games remaining after Wednesday while its competition will all have four or five, so it may be necessary to run the table.

Team Scope:

Avalanche: This is the second stop on a three-game road trip. Colorado plays in Calgary on Friday, then has five days off before concluding with home games against Columbus and Nashville. The Avalanche have been playing tight, mostly one-goal games for weeks now, but they were soundly defeated 5-1 by the Sharks on Monday. San Jose opened the scoring in the second period with a pair of goals, and after Shane O'Brien briefly brought Colorado back in it with his third of the season, the Sharks came back with three unanswered to cruise.

"The game got away from us," captain Milan Hejduk said in the Denver Post. "Looks like we kind of have to go almost 4-0 and see what the other teams do. We'll try to do our part."

Still locked in a battle with St. Louis for the No. 1 seed in the West as well as with Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers for the Presidents' Trophy, it appears Vancouver has emerged from a stretch that saw the Canucks lose eight of 11 games to carry a three-game winning streak into Wednesday's contest. Interestingly, it's coincided with the loss of Daniel Sedin to a concussion. The goaltending has been stout, including Roberto Luongo's 38-save shutout performance in Monday's 1-0 win over the Kings. Luongo made Manny Malhotra's goal 3:05 into the first hold up for the 59th shutout of his career.

"Lou played phenomenal," Malhotra said. "When they did get those opportunities, he stood tall and made key saves, especially right down to the last few seconds."

Who's Hot:
Gabriel Landeskog assisted on the goal by O'Brien against the Sharks, giving the Avs rookie 49 points and tying him with the Oilers' Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the rookie scoring lead. … Luongo is 2-0-1 in his last three starts, giving up just four goals and posting a .965 save percentage.

Injury Report: Sedin is out indefinitely for Vancouver, which has also been without defensemen Aaron Rome (knee) and Keith Ballard (concussion) and forward Andrew Ebbett (collarbone). Ebbett is practicing again, while Ballard has been cleared for light contact.

Stat Pack: Landeskog is tied for 25th in the NHL with a plus-20 rating and second only to Carl Hagelin of the Rangers (plus-21) among rookies. … The Canucks have not suffered a regulation loss in 100 games when leading after two periods, improving to 95-0-5 after Monday's victory.

Puck Drop: It's now or never if Colorado is going to break through against Vancouver -- and after Monday's tough loss in San Jose, the players were already regrouping and looking ahead to the next game.

"That one stings a bit, but we're still in this thing," O'Brien said in the Denver Post.
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