By Mike Lipka
Colorado (31-44-2) at Vancouver (42-26-10), 10:00 p.m. EDT
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- The Vancouver Canucks need
points as they chase a Northwest Division title. Facing the
Colorado Avalanche looks like a pretty good way to get them.
Vancouver will be happy to see the plummeting Avalanche twice in
the final week of the regular season, especially considering
Colorado has already lost twice to the Canucks during its
eight-game losing streak.
It likely won't be any easier for the Avs on Sunday night at GM
Place, where the Canucks are 11-0-1 in their last 12 games.
Having already secured a playoff berth, the Canucks now have set
their sights on winning the division and securing the No. 3 seed
in the Western Conference. They're currently tied with Calgary
atop the Northwest, although the Flames have the tiebreaker with
one more victory.
The rivals face off Tuesday in Vancouver for the final time in
the regular season.
The Canucks (42-26-10), though, missed an opportunity to surge
ahead on Saturday, losing 5-3 at Edmonton.
They outshot the Oilers 46-25, but could never tie the game
despite scoring three third-period goals - including Alex
Burrows' 13th in his last 17 games. All-Star and captain Roberto
Luongo allowed four goals after giving up five in a 6-5 shootout
loss to Anaheim on Thursday that ended the Canucks' 11-game home
"One thing that was uncharacteristic was whenever we got close
we made mistakes that we don't usually make and they found a way
to put it in the back of our net," Vancouver coach Alain
Vigneault said Saturday. "They made us pay for our mistakes and
we weren't able to do the same thing."
Facing the crumbling Avalanche (31-44-2) figures to help, and
the teams will meet again Saturday. The Canucks outscored
Colorado 8-3 in two victories last month, part of Vancouver's
20-5-1 surge in February and March that pushed it into the top
five in the West.
Luongo snapped a seven-game losing streak against the Avalanche
on March 15, making 18 saves in a 4-2 win, and backup Jason
LaBarbera played as the Canucks dominated on March 27 in a 4-1
The Avalanche have been heading in the opposite direction from
Vancouver, having scored 10 total goals during their 0-7-1
The team's sputtering offense suffered another major blow on
Wednesday as leading scorer Ryan Smyth (59 points) was lost for
the season with a broken hand during a 3-0 loss to Phoenix.
The Avalanche managed only 23 shots as Coyotes rookie Al Montoya
earned a shutout in his NHL debut.
"It definitely has been a different experience than in the
past," said right wing Milan Hejduk, second on the Avs with 55
points. "It has been difficult for me. I can't picture this team
having losing streaks like other teams."
Colorado has already ensured that it will finish with its fewest
points since the 1991-92 season when the team was based in
Quebec, and a loss Sunday would mark the first time the
franchise has dropped nine in a row.
In addition to Smyth, Paul Stastny and Joe Sakic also remain a
part of Colorado's lengthy injured list, leaving the team
without its leading scorers from its previous four seasons as