GAME: Vancouver Canucks (8-1-1) at Colorado Avalanche (4-4-1).
TIME: Thursday, 9 p.m. EDT.
While fans of the Colorado Avalanche will have their attention focused squarely on Todd Bertuzzi, the team itself would be better off concerning themselves with slowing down one of the NHL's best clubs.
Bertuzzi makes his long-awaited first appearance in Colorado as the red-hot Vancouver Canucks try to extend their winning streak to seven when they face the Avalanche.
There is little doubt that Avalanche fans have had the date Oct. 27 circled on the calendar ever since the 2005-06 NHL schedule was released because it's the first time they would get to voice their displeasure at Bertuzzi since the infamous incident with Colorado's Steve Moore that took place in Vancouver on March 8, 2004.
Bertuzzi initiated one of the ugliest incidents in league history when he hit Moore from behind, slammed him to the ice and broke his neck. Because of his actions, Bertuzzi was suspended for the final 13 games of the 2003-04 season and the playoffs, but after everyone missed all of 2004-05 because of labor strife, he was reinstated.
Bertuzzi, arguably the league's best power forward, was sentenced to one year of probation and 80 hours of community service after pleading guilty to assault. A civil suit Moore filed against the Canucks' forward in Denver court was recently thrown out, with the judge saying the case should be heard in Canada.
Moore hasn't played since the incident, but has been rehabbing. A free agent, the Avalanche have been lukewarm about his return, saying they'll welcome him back only when his doctors clear him to play.
At the very least, Bertuzzi will be booed every time he touches the puck Thursday.
"I will be vocal. I will be heard," Avalanche season-ticket holder Bruce Peterson said. "Avalanche fans have taken it pretty personal."
Avalanche fans will get more time to boo Bertuzzi because in an NHL scheduling quirk, the Canucks play at Colorado again on Saturday.
These teams have already met this season with the Canucks holding on for a 6-4 victory in Vancouver last Saturday. That game went off without incident.
"I could have played a couple more periods," was Bertuzzi's response when asked if he was glad his first game against the Avs was over.
Although Bertuzzi has been limited to two goals in 10 games, it hasn't had any negative effect on the Canucks, who at 8-1-1 have matched the best record in team history after 10 games. Their only regulation loss was Oct. 12 when Minnesota won 6-0 in St. Paul.
Captain Markus Naslund helped the Canucks to their sixth straight win, 3-1 at Minnesota on Tuesday, breaking a tie early in the second period with his team-leading seventh goal.
"Minnesota has a lot of injuries, and tonight we caught them at the right time, when they probably would've liked to have a few of those guys back," Canucks coach Marc Crawford said.
During their six-game streak, the Canucks have outscored opponents 28-14. Only Detroit (42) and Colorado (39) have scored more goals than Vancouver (38).
Colorado has won two of three - both against Edmonton - following a three-game losing streak.
Patrice Brisebois and Ian Laperriere scored in the final minute in a 5-3 victory over the Oilers on Tuesday.
The win allowed the Avalanche to breathe a sigh of relief after they blew a pair of three-goal leads in two losses during their most recent homestand.
"The usual," Brisebois said. "We start great and struggle. We didn't play well without the puck. We are undisciplined. We regained control and won."
STANDINGS: Canucks - 17 points, 1st place, Northwest Division. Avalanche - 9 points, 3rd place (tied), 8 PB, Northwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Canucks - Naslund, 7 goals and 13 points; Ed Jovanovski, 8 assists; Bertuzzi, 19 PIM. Avalanche - Marek Svatos and Brisebois, 5 goals; Rob Blake and Alex Tanguay, 8 assists; John-Michael Liles, 11 points; Laperriere, 29 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Canucks - Power play: 18.2 percent (15 for 82), 12th in NHL. Penalty killing: 78.1 percent (43 for 55), 26th. Avalanche - Power play: 23.3 percent (14 for 60), 4th. Penalty killing: 85.4 percent (53 for 62), 8th.
GOALTENDERS: Canucks - Dan Cloutier (5-1-1, 3.12 GAA); Alex Auld (3-0-0, 1.67). Avalanche - David Aebischer (3-3-0, 3.53); Peter Budaj (1-1-1, 2.95).
SEASON SERIES: Canucks, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Saturday; Canucks, 6-4. At Vancouver, British Columbia, Daniel Sedin's second goal of the game with seven minutes left in the third period extended the Canucks' lead to 5-1, but the Avs scored three straight before Trevor Linden's empty-net goal sealed the win for Vancouver.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canucks - 3-1-1 on the road; Avalanche - 2-2-1 at home.