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Surging Canucks set to host Avs

by Deborah Francisco
AVALANCHE (13-13-1) AT CANUCKS (15-10-1)


Last 10: Colorado 5-5-0, Vancouver 7-3-0.

Season Series: This is the second time this season that these two Northwest Division rivals will face each other out of a season total of six meetings. The Canucks shut out the Avalanche, 3-0, in the first contest on Nov. 23.

Big Story: Colorado and Vancouver are neck and neck in the Northwest Division standings as Colorado trails Vancouver by a margin of four points; however, the two points up for grabs in this tilt are vital to catch up to the division-leading Minnesota Wild. Minnesota has a six-point advantage in the division standings and doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

Team Scope:

Avalanche: Colorado has won three-straight games for the first time since it opened the season with a 5-0, five-game road trip. This is Colorado's first road game since the 17th of November. The Avalanche went 5-3-0 in that eight-game homestand. The recent success at home ended a funk that kept Colorado from winning at home. Prior to this homestand, Colorado was 2-6-0 at the Pepsi Center.

Part of Colorado's recent success can be credited to second-line center, Ryan O'Reilly, who has seven points in his last three games (four goals) after having only two assists in his previous seven contests combined.

"I don't think I've had this many points in a row," O'Reilly said. "My linemates make me look good."

Rookie defenseman Stefan Elliot also contributed with his first career goal and an additional two points since being called up from Colorado's AHL affiliate on November 26.

Colorado is coming off of a big 4-2 win over the Red Wings

Canucks: Vancouver is looking to win for the seventh time in eight games as it takes on the Avalanche at Rogers Arena. Roberto Luongo made his first start suffering an upper-body injury on Nov. 13. He also filled in for Cory Schneider in the previous game when Schneider was pulled in the first period.

"It was nice to get back in there with a win," Luongo said. "That was the goal, and the boys did a great job."

Luongo stopped 21 shots to lead the Canucks to 5-1 victory over division rival Calgary.

Chris Higgins and David Booth each had a goal and two assists in that contest to assist Luongo in his homecoming. This win came on the heels of a tight 6-5 loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday night.

While Schneider performed admirably in net in Luongo's absence, the Canucks are happy to have their No. 1 starting goalie back between the pipes.

"Bobby showed once again why he's one of the top goalies in the League," Higgins said. "I'm really happy I don't have to shoot on him."

Who's Hot: O'Reilly was named the NHL's Second Star of the Week for his seven points in four games including three games straight with at least two points. … Daniel Sedin leads the Canucks in both goals (9) and assists (21).

Injury Report: Colorado forwards Peter Mueller (concussion) and Mark Olver (head) remain on IR … Canucks winger Andrew Ebbett (foot) is out at least another two weeks, while Aaron Volpatti (shoulder) is done for the season. Byron Bitz (hip) is also out.

Stat Pack: Vancouver forward Alex Burrows has scored in two straight games against Colorado.

Puck Drop: "Hopefully, we're turning the tide a bit here and it's nice to get some wins at home," Avalanche winger T.J. Galiardi said. "We talked about it before the New Jersey game (Nov. 30), we needed somewhere to start, something to build off of and since then we've been playing some pretty good hockey."

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