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Avs host Canucks with first place on the line

by Brian Compton
CANUCKS (40-23-2) at AVALANCHE (37-22-6)

Last 10: Vancouver 6-4-0; Colorado 6-4-0.

Season Series: This is the fifth of six meetings between the Northwest Division rivals. The Avs won the first meeting in a 3-0 victory on Oct. 3, 2009, but the Canucks have taken the last three and most recently earned a 5-2 win on Nov. 20, 2009 at GM Place.

Big Story: First place in the Northwest Division is on the line as the Avalanche can pull even with a regulation victory. Vancouver seized sole possession of first on Sunday with a 4-2 win at Nashville.

Team Scope:

Canucks: It's almost over. After Tuesday's game at Colorado, the Canucks have just one more city to visit on their historic 14-game road trip, which ends on Wednesday at Phoenix. Vancouver improved to 7-5-0 with Sunday's 4-2 win at Nashville, where they rallied for three goals in the third period.

"We were down by a goal going into the third, and again, we found a way to get it done," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. 

Avalanche: After suffering a disappointing 3-1 loss at Phoenix on Thursday, the Avs responded with a resounding 7-3 win over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night at the Pepsi Center. Chris Stewart completed his first NHL hat trick when he beat Ty Conklin on a penalty shot late in the second period.

"He's a big man," Colorado coach Joe Sacco said of Stewart, who has 24 goals this season. "He's got good speed and he's got strength. When he skates, he's very difficult to contain. And he's playing with confidence right now. You can see that."

Who's Hot: Canucks forward Ryan Kesler, who represented the U.S. at the Olympics, has recorded at least one point in nine straight games. … Stewart has 7 goals and 8 assists in the last eight games for Colorado.

Injury Report: Canucks right wing Steve Bernier is out with a groin injury and has returned to Vancouver to see a specialist. Willie Mitchell (concussion) and Alexandre Bolduc (shoulder) are also out, while Kevin Bieksa (ankle) hopes to return soon. … Avs forwards David Jones (knee) and David Koci (hand) are on injured reserve, while defenseman Kyle Cumiskey (concussion) is out indefinitely. Brandon Yip (shoulder) and Ruslan Salei (torso) are also out.

Stat Pack: Canucks captain Roberto Luongo is 5-1-0 in games after he has been pulled. His opponent on Tuesday, Craig Anderson, has started 20 consecutive games, six shy of the franchise record set by Ron Tugnutt of the Quebec Nordiques in 1990-91.

Puck Drop: "It's going to be a huge test for us. We've been battling with them all year long, and we've had some good games against them. We have to make sure we have a good, solid effort and limit our mistakes." -- Colorado goalie Craig Anderson on Tuesday's showdown

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