Canucks @ Avalanche - Game Preview
GAME: Vancouver Canucks (45-23-7) vs. Colorado Avalanche (39-29-7).
The Canucks have a chance to extract some revenge and clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Avalanche Tuesday night.
The Avs meanwhile will try to continue their push to catch Calgary for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Colorado continued their spectacular late season run with a 5-4 shootout win over the Canucks on Sunday, bringing their record to 8-0-2 in their last 10. They became the first road team to earn a victory in the season series that they lead 4-2.
The Canucks currently sit in the Northwest Division lead with 97 points. They are tied in points with Minnesota, but claim top spot thanks to a game in hand. Canucks Head Coach Alain Vigneault says he expects his team to be ready for the rematch.
"We are in a position right now to finish first in our division and we shouldn't shy away from that challenge" said Vigneault. "Minnesota's got some tough games this week in their building against Calgary, a team who's fighting for their playoff lives; we've got a tough game tomorrow night against Colorado. I want us to play hard, I want us to play hard right to the end and that's what we're going to do."
Vigneault hopes to have Sami Salo back in the line-up in Denver. Salo, who leads the defence in goals, has missed the past three games with sore groin. He skated with the team Tuesday in Vancouver and will make the trip.
"I think it's up to me," said Salo. "The training staff and coaching staff are good that way. They believe the player, and once the player gives it the green light they're alright with that."
The Canucks, who only got Willie Mitchell back Sunday after the shut-down defender sat out five games with a pulled groin, lost Mattias Ohlund to a lacerated elbow. He'll will not make the trip.
Judging by Vigneault's comments following Sunday's 5-4 loss that saw the Canucks surrender two, two-goal leads, the team could use a more cohesive, focused effort on the blue line.
"I thought for the first 25 minutes we worked hard and we were good on the ice," said coach Alain Vigneault. "We had a couple bounces that went for them for the first two goals, but after that we just didn't play hard enough. I know our guys care - but we were playing like we didn't care."
Sunday's setback may have prevented Vancouver from officially clinching a playoff berth, but their record still isn't something to be ashamed of. The Canucks have not lost in regulation in their past ten homes games (8-0-2).
The Avs, meanwhile, head into Tuesday's tilt on the shoulders of Captain Joe Sakic.
Sakic looked, as Coach Vigneault put it, like "a man possessed." Sakic scored two goals. That brings his point streak to six games (seven goals and six assists) and moved him into a tie with former teammate Ray Bourque for ninth on the career points list with 1,579, and into a 15th-place tie with Dino Ciccarelli on the career goal list with 610.
The Avs are also trying to keep another streak going. A berth in this year's playoffs would bring their consecutive post-season appearances to 12. They currently sit 5 points back of the Flames for 8th spot in the west and haven't lost in regulation since the trade deadline.
Both the Flames and Avs have 7 games remaining this season including a match-up April 3rd in Calgary that could decide their respective playoff fates.
With his three helpers Sunday night, Henrik Sedin set a new franchise mark for assist in a season passing Andre Boudrias's single season mark of 62. Henirk will try and widen the gap in Denver where the Canucks are winless in three tries, losing by a combined score of 10-5.
Ryan Kesler (hip), Josh Green (knee) and Mattias Ohlund (elbow) are out for Vancouver. Sami Salo (groin) is a game time decision.
Patrice Brisebois (back). Jordan Leopold (wrist), Pierre Turgeon (calf) are out for Colorado. Karlis Skrastins (knee) is day to day.