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Canucks-Avalanche Preview @NHLdotcom
Canucks-Avalanche Preview

GAME: Vancouver Canucks (28-18-5) at Colorado Avalanche (28-19-4).

TIME: Saturday, 10 p.m. EST.

The struggling Vancouver Canucks will face perhaps the toughest challenge on their season-high seven-game road trip.

The Canucks, losers of the first three games of the road swing, also look for their first win in four tries this season in Denver when they meet the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center.

Vancouver has been outscored 16-7 in three losses this season in Denver and its current losing has it battling to stay in contention for first place in the Northwest Division.

The Canucks start play with 61 points - two behind the front-running Calgary Flames and just one point ahead of Colorado and the Edmonton Oilers.

The last-place Minnesota Wild also are just seven points behind the Canucks.

Markus Naslund, the Canucks' leading scorer, has a goal and six assists in a four-game points streak against Colorado while Todd Bertuzzi has scored in each game this season against the Avs, tallying a goal and five assists in that span.

Vancouver was outshot 35-15 Thursday in a 2-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings to fall to 3-7 in its its last 10 road games.

The Canucks started the road trip with losses to the St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets - the two weakest teams in the Western Conference.

"We didn't have a solid game in St. Louis or Columbus," Vancouver's Ryan Kesler after the loss to Detroit. "We definitely took a step in the right direction; we just didn't get the win."

Colorado comes off a 3-2 shootout loss Thursday at home to the Paciifc Division-leading Dallas Stars. Rob Blake and Alex Tanguay scored to give the the Avs a 2-0 lead, but Dallas rallied, sending the game into the shootout.

Rookie goaltender Peter Budaj gave up shootout goals to Sergei Zubov and fellow rookie Jussi Jokinen.

"We would have loved to get two points there, but they got a fortunate break and a bounce," Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. "We had those opportunities all night at their end and we couldn't get the next one."

Olympians Joe Sakic and John-Michael Liles will both try to extend points streaks.

Sakic, who will represent Canada, has nine goals and eight assists in an eight-game streak versus the Canucks. Liles, who will play for the U.S. next month at Turin, has two goals and seven assists in a career-best six-game points streak overall.

Colorado also may welcome back former Canuck Brad May, who skated Thursday but missed his 11th straight game with a sprained knee. The left wing has two goals, two assists and a minus-10 rating in 34 games this season with the Avs.

STANDINGS: Canucks - 61 points, 2nd place, 2 PB, Northwest Division. Avalanche - 60 points, 3rd place (tied), 3 PB, Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Canucks - Naslund, 23 goals and 54 points; Henrik Sedin, 34 assists; Bertuzzi, 80 PIM. Avalanche - Marek Svatos, 29 goals; Tanguay, 38 assists and 60 points; Ian Laperriere, 70 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 26): Canucks - Power play: 19.4 percent (65 for 336), 8th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.0 percent (256 for 316), 19th. Avalanche - Power play: 20.6 percent (66 for 320), 4th. Penalty killing: 84.7 percent (244 for 288), 7th.

GOALTENDERS: Canucks - Alexander Auld (20-13-3, 0 SO, 2.78 GAA); Maxime Ouellet (0-2-1, 0, 4.00). Avalanche - David Aebischer (19-11-0, 2, 3.19); Budaj (6-5-4, 0, 2.73).

SEASON SERIES: Avalanche, 4-2.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 30; Canucks 5-2. At Vancouver, British Columbia, Brendan Morrison's late second-period goal snapped a 2-2 tie for the Canucks. Sakic had a goal and an assist for Colorado.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canucks - 10-15-2 on the road; Avalanche - 16-7-4 at home.

Associated Press
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