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Tough test for Avalanche as they host Canucks

by Mike G. Morreale
CANUCKS (44-21-9) at AVALANCHE (40-31-5)


Last 10:
Vancouver 4-5-1; Colorado 7-2-1

Season series: Fifth of six meetings between these Northwest Division rivals. The Canucks have won all four matchups so far. Jannik Hansen's goal with 6:29 left in the third period was the decisive tally in a 3-1 victory on Feb. 15. Roberto Luongo made 29 saves for the Canucks, who are 13-0-2 in the last 15 meetings against the Avalanche.

Big story: It's crunch time for Avalanche, who have six games left, and are ninth in the Western Conference playoff race. Colorado is even in points (85) with eighth-place Dallas, but the Stars have played two fewer games. The Avs probably aren't looking forward to seeing the Canucks invade Pepsi Center in a must-win situation. The Canucks have outscored the Avs, 15-3, in four previous victories. After Saturday, Colorado takes a three-game trip to San Jose, Vancouver and Calgary before concluding its regular-season at home against Columbus and Nashville.

Team Scope:

Canucks: Cory Schneider made 25 saves, including 11 in the second period, as the Canucks scored a 2-1 victory over the Dallas Stars on Thursday. The victory marked a career-high 17th win for Schneider, who has allowed one goal in five of his last seven games. Henrik Sedin notched two assists and Mason Raymond had a goal and one assist to snap his nine-game point drought.

Avalanche: The Avalanche dropped a 3-2 decision to the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday and are now 5-1-1 in the past seven games and 7-2-1 in the past 10. Paul Stastny scored his 20th goal in the loss -- the fifth time in his six NHL seasons he's reached that mark. The setback snapped goalie Semyon Varlamov's five-game winning streak. Varlamov has started nine of the Avalanche's past 10 games and 17 of 20. He is expected to get the nod against the Canucks and, in all likelihood, all six of the Avalanche's remaining regular-season games.

"We've got to put (the loss to Phoenix) behind us very quickly and get ready for Vancouver," coach Joe Sacco said. "At this time of the year you can't dwell on a loss. There is too much at stake."

Who's hot: Vancouver's Henrik Sedin has three 2-assist games in his last five contests and goalie Schneider is 10-1-1 in his last 12 starts.

Injury report: Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson (back spasms) and forward Chuck Kobasew (strained back) are day-to-day. … Canucks' left wing Daniel Sedin (upper body) is out indefinitely after taking an elbow to the head from Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith in the first period on Wednesday in Chicago. The Canucks are also without forward Andrew Ebbett (broken collarbone) and defenseman Keith Ballard (concussion).

Stat pack:
The Canucks have been dominant when leading after two periods. Since the 2006-07 season, the Canucks have posted the NHL's best record of 185-3-14 (157-3-12 entering 2011-12) when entering the third period with the lead. They currently have the second-longest active streak of 99 games (94-0-5) of not losing in regulation when leading after two periods.

Puck drop:
The Avalanche have received great production from two recent acquisitions. Jamie McGinn, acquired from San Jose at the trade deadline on Feb. 27, has 11 points (7 goals) and a plus-3 rating in 12 games with Colorado. Steve Downie, acquired from Tampa Bay on Feb. 21, has 12 points (10 assists) with a plus-9 rating 15 games.
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