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Colorado Avalanche vs. Vancouver Canucks @NHLdotcom
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GAME: Colorado Avalanche (34-17-12-5) at Vancouver Canucks (36-20-8-4).

TIME: Monday, 10 p.m. EST.

After their worst home loss in almost 10 years, perhaps a three-game road trip is the best thing for the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avalanche begin the trip with a visit to the Vancouver Canucks in a battle for the top spot in the Northwest Division.

The Avalanche, with a one-point lead over the Canucks, are coming off a 7-1 loss to the Calgary Flames at the Pepsi Center on Sunday.

"A bad game from start to finish," Colorado coach Tony Granato said. "Once they took the lead, we just got deflated and it got worse and worse as it went on."

It was Colorado's worst regular-season loss since a 7-0 defeat at Phoenix on Nov. 26, 1999, and its worst home loss since the franchise moved from Quebec to Colorado for the 1995-96 season.

The Avalanche, who have won three of their last five on the road, are just 1-5-3-1 in their last 10 at home and 2-6-2-1 in their last 11 overall.

"The last two weeks we have not played our best hockey," Granato said. "But you look at the standings and we are still in first place. We're still in a position where with 14 games to go we can accomplish our goals, win our division and set ourselves up for the playoffs."

Canucks right wing Todd Bertuzzi expects the Avalanche to regroup, and knows it won't be easy to end their dominance of the division.

"Colorado's been up there for nine straight years. That should be motivation in itself for our team to come and play hard for the last 14 games," he said.

Bertuzzi had two assists in Vancouver's 4-0 victory over Columbus on Saturday. Johan Hedberg stopped 32 shots for his second straight shutout and 10th of his career.

"It's pretty impressive," said Markus Naslund, who had a goal and an assist on Saturday. "Not only the shutout but the way he plays and the way he plays the puck. He controls the game when he plays like this."

"Every game you get to play, you get more and more used to playing in game situations," said Hedberg, who has seen limited action as a backup to Dan Cloutier. "Right now it's fun to play hockey."

STANDINGS: Avalanche - 85 points, 1st place, Northwest Division. Canucks - 84 points, 2nd place, 1 PB, Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Avalanche - Milan Hejduk, 31 goals; Alex Tanguay, 52 assists and 77 points; Jim Cummins, 136 PIM. Canucks - Naslund, 32 goals and 75 points; Naslund and Bertuzzi, 43 assists; Jarkko Ruutu, 118 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 6): Avalanche - Power play: 21.1 percent (61 for 289), 4th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.5 percent (251 for 297), 11th. Canucks - Power play: 15.9 percent (52 for 328), 18th. Penalty killing: 86.6 percent (259 for 299), 1st.

GOALTENDERS: Avalanche - David Aebischer (27-15-9, 4 SO, 2.07 GAA); Phil Sauve (7-6-3, 0, 2.79). Canucks - Cloutier (26-19-4, 4, 2.34); Hedberg (8-4-2, 3, 2.09).

SEASON SERIES: Canucks, 2-1-2.

LAST MEETING: March 3; Tie, 5-5, OT. At Denver, Mattias Ohlund and Marek Malik scored third-period goals as Vancouver overcame three two-goal deficits.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Avalanche - 17-4-7-4 on the road; Canucks - 17-10-5-0 at home.

Associated Press
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