(AP) - A short layoff may help recharge the Vancouver Canucks as they try to regain one of the top three playoff seeds in the Western Conference. The Colorado Avalanche, meanwhile, cannot afford to rest. Vancouver faces off against Colorado at GM Place on Sunday night in the start of a home-and-home series that could have major playoff implications. "For me those two games against Colorado, with the way the schedule seems to be right now, those are probably going to be the two games that will assure us of a playoff spot, or mean that we'll have to keep battling for that official playoff position," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said on the team's official Web site. With 96 points, Vancouver (45-23-6) dropped to second place in the Northwest Division - and into a tie with San Jose for fifth in the Western Conference - after Minnesota defeated Los Angeles 4-1 on Saturday. The Canucks, who were idle, have two games in hand on the Wild, whom they will not face again in the regular season. Sunday's matchup, though, is the first of three remaining games between Vancouver and Colorado. The division rivals meet again Tuesday night in Denver before closing out their season series on April 5 in Vancouver. While the Canucks are vying for their second division title in three seasons, the Avalanche face an uphill climb as they try to extend their run of consecutive playoff appearances to 12. Colorado (38-29-7) is in ninth place in the West, five points behind eighth-place Calgary. Both the Avalanche and Flames have eight games remaining, including an April 3 matchup in Calgary. "Colorado still has a chance to be in it and they've been playing really well lately," Vigneault said. "All our games against them this year have been really hard-fought. They've been one of the best offensive teams in the league, even though they're really young, so hopefully we can play well against them and get them out of the equation."
The Canucks have won their last two matchups with the Avalanche after being held to just five goals in three losses, all in Denver. Vancouver, which has won its last four home meetings with Colorado, needs one win to match the single-season franchise record set in 1992-93. On Wednesday night, Roberto Luongo stopped 20 shots for his fourth shutout of the season, and made first-period goals by Jan Bulis and Tommi Santala stand up in the Canucks' 2-0 win over West-leading Nashville. "It was a really solid effort by every guy in this locker room tonight. We didn't give them much all night," said Luongo, who hasn't lost at home in regulation since Feb. 7, and has gone 8-0-1 with a 2.07 goals-against average since then.
Vancouver's Daniel Sedin has scored one goal in all four games he's played against Colorado this season. He leads the Canucks with 32 goals and 73 points. Twin brother Henrik Sedin is second with 70 points, with five coming against the Avs.
Colorado settled for a split of its two-game series in Edmonton after a 4-3 overtime loss on Friday that ended the Oilers' 12-game winless streak. "I thought we played pretty good," Colorado captain Joe Sakic said. "We could have used the two points, with the race we are in, but I guess we'll take the one and move on." Avs left wing Andrew Brunette has a goal and 10 assists during a seven-game point streak. He also leads Colorado in scoring versus Vancouver this season with four goals and six points.