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Canucks look to continue recent mastery of Avalanche

by Brian Hunter

AVALANCHE (2-3-0) at CANUCKS (2-2-2)


Season series: First of four meetings between these Northwest Division rivals. Vancouver swept six games on the 2011-12 schedule and has won seven straight in the series dating back to the last Colorado win on Jan. 18, 2011. Three of the Canucks' victories last season came by shutout, with Cory Schneider registering two of them and sharing a third with Roberto Luongo.

Big story: Six games -- even in an abbreviated 48-game season -- is a small sample size, but the goaltending numbers in Vancouver so far favor the former No. 1 over his heir apparent. Luongo has only started twice, with a pair of shootout losses on his ledger, but boasts a 2.21 goals-against average and .917 save percentage, while Schneider, despite a 2-2 mark, is struggling to find his game still with a 3.13 GAA and .897 save percentage. Schneider seems likely to get the nod Wednesday against an Avalanche team that will probably again be without its young captain, Gabriel Landeskog.

Team Scope:

Avalanche: It's uncertain how much time Landeskog could miss after he took a hard hit from San Jose defenseman Brad Stuart on Saturday, but his absence was certainly felt in Colorado's 4-1 loss to Edmonton on Monday. The Avalanche put 39 shots on Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk, but lacked a finishing touch outside of PA Parenteau's goal in the third period. They were also burned by penalties, as all four Edmonton goals came on the power play.

"We put ourselves in shorthanded situations again," coach Joe Sacco said. "We've allowed seven power-play goals now in two games. That's not good enough. The overall game was not good enough as well. We have to pick it up on our special teams, there is no question. And one goal in two games isn't going to get you many points."

Canucks: Luongo's two starts this season have played out in nearly identical fashion -- Vancouver built a two-goal lead against defending champion Los Angeles on Monday, just as it did in Luongo's previous game against Edmonton. But like the Oilers, the Kings battled back and got the tying goal late in regulation, then handed the Canucks a 3-2 shootout loss.

"It's disappointing getting scored on in the last minute like that," Luongo said. "I thought we played well tonight. [It's] tough to assess performance after a loss. [You] always want to find ways to be better, maybe make an extra save somewhere."

Who's hot: Parenteau has been the Avs' sole source of offense in the last couple games, and has three goals in four games. … Zack Kassian has four goals in five games for the Canucks, which doubles his career total over his previous 45 games. Alexandre Burrows has goals in two straight.

Injury report: While Colorado hopes Landeskog (head/neck) will be back soon, forward Steve Downie (knee) is out for the season. … Vancouver forwards David Booth (groin) and Ryan Kesler (shoulder/wrist) remain on injured reserve.

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