Canucks vs. Avalanche - Game Preview
GAME: Vancouver Canucks (48-24-7) vs. Colorado Avalanche (42-30-7).
The Vancouver Canucks already have clinched a playoff berth, but another victory gives them the Northwest Division title. The Colorado Avalanche have to keep winning, or else their postseason hopes are over.
The Canucks try to clinch their second division title in three seasons while knocking the Avalanche out of the playoff race when the teams meet in Vancouver on Thursday.
This is the end of a three-game homestand and the final game of the regular season at GM Place for the Canucks, who finish on the road at San Jose and Phoenix. It's the final road game for Colorado, which has won three straight and is 13-1-2 since Feb. 27, keeping alive its faint playoff hopes.
Vancouver (48-24-7) leads the Northwest Division with 103 points, three more than Minnesota. The Canucks need either one win or a Wild loss to clinch the fifth division title in franchise history and they need two points to break the franchise record of 104, set in 2003-04.
"We're close," Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo said. "So it will be a big one Thursday night for us."
The Avalanche (42-30-7) have 91 points, five behind Calgary for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. There are a variety of scenarios that would eliminate Colorado over the next few games, but the only way the Avalanche can stay alive is to keep winning. A regulation loss on Thursday eliminates Colorado as does a Calgary victory over San Jose.
If the Avalanche can hang around, they host the Flames on Sunday, the final day of the regular season.
"It's come together at the right time and the guys are playing well, playing hard, we're enjoying this streak right now," Avalanche captain Joe Sakic said. "Then again, we know it's still an uphill battle.
"We've got to win all our games and hope that they lose."
Colorado helped its chances by beating Calgary 4-3 on Tuesday night, the team's third straight road win. The Avalanche are 9-0-2 away from Colorado since the start of March. Sakic led the way with his team-leading 35th goal and three assists.
"Joe was great," Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville said. "He's been like that all year, his consistency has been tremendous, his leadership is as great as there is in the game.
"I can't say enough good things about him."
The Avalanche have made the playoffs 11 straight seasons, including all 10 since the team moved to Denver before the 1994-95 season.
The Canucks beat Los Angeles 4-2 on Tuesday night, rallying from a 2-0 deficit to get within grasp of the division crown. Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin had two assists apiece in support of Luongo, who allowed a soft goal and finished with only 15 saves.
"It was nice to finally help him out a little bit," Canucks forward Markus Naslund said of Luongo. "He's bailed us out so many times this year."
Luongo needs one victory to match Bernie Parent's single-season record of 47, set in 1973-74 and matched by New Jersey's Martin Brodeur on Tuesday night.
Colorado has won four of the seven meetings this season, though the Canucks have earned points in the last four contests (3-0-1).
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.