Tale of the Tape: Canucks @ Avalanche (4.13.13)
|Team Record: 23-11-6
Last Game: 4-1 W at Calgary (APR.10.13)
Season Series: 3-0-0
Last Meeting: 4-1 W (MAR.28.13)
|Team Record: 13-22-6
Last Game: 2-3 SO/L at Los Angeles (APR.11.13)
Season Series: 0-3-0
Last Meeting: 1-4 L (MAR.28.13)
The Vancouver Canucks (23-11-6) continue their five-game road trip today in the Mile High City with a stop at the Pepsi Center to take on the Colorado Avalanche (13-22-6) in a rare afternoon affair.What You Need to Know
- The Canucks are playing the second game of their five-game road swing this afternoon. They began the trip with a 4-1 win in Calgary on Wednesday thanks in large part to a 40-save performance by surprise starter G Robert Luongo.
- Wednesday's victory in Calgary extended the Canucks' win streak to four games. It also snapped their short two-game road losing streak.
- The Avs are beginning their final extended home stand of the season and are hoping to give their home crowd something to cheer for after 60 minutes. They've won just two of their last eight games (2-5-1) at the Pepsi Center.
- The Avalanche come into today's game having earned points in back-to-back outings during their two-game California road trip. They earned a 4-1 win in Anaheim on Wednesday and dropped a 3-2 shootout decision in Los Angeles on Thursday.
- Today marks the fourth and final meeting between the Canucks and Avalanche this season. Vancouver will be looking to complete the perfect sweep of the season series after winning all three previous games by a combined 10-3 score.
- Vancouver begins play today sitting six points clear of Minnesota for top spot in the Northwest Division with both teams having played 40 games. The Canucks, with a win coupled with a Wild loss in their game later tonight against the Blue Jackets, could stretch their lead atop the division to as much as eight points.
- Based on yesterday's practice, the Canucks may be looking at juggling their top six forwards. F Jannik Hansen skated on a line with the Sedin twins while F Alex Burrows dropped down to play alongside F Ryan Kesler and F Zack Kassian.
- Canucks G Cory Schneider, who sat out Wednesday's win with the flu, is expected to return to the crease this afternoon. He has a 2-0 record this season against the Avs with a 1.50 GAA and a .951 save percentage.
- Avalanche G J.S. Giguere will likely get his 11th start of the season today barring a return from injury by G Semyon Varlamov, who has not dressed the last two games with a hip injury. Giguere made headlines earlier this week when he questioned his team's work ethic and suggested his teammates were more concerned about an upcoming trip to Las Vegas than they were with their performance on the ice.
- The Canucks will look to continue their total dominance over the Avalanche with yet another win this afternoon. Vancouver has earned points in 20 straight games against Colorado (18-0-2) dating back to November 1, 2009. The Canucks have also won four straight games at the Pepsi Center and have earned points in nine straight visits to Denver (8-0-1).
Today's game faces off at 12 pm PT and can be seen on Sportsnet Pacific. Listen live on The TEAM 1040 Sports Radio or online at teamradio.ca.
Those away from a TV or radio can follow @CanucksGame on Twitter for live in-game play-by-play.
Keys to the Game
The Canucks Win If...
- They don't take the Avs lightly. The Canucks will be the first to admit they didn't have their best performance despite winning 4-1 in Calgary on Wednesday. While today's game might seem like a complete mismatch on paper the Canucks will want to be wary of an Avalanche team that, despite sitting near the bottom of the league standings, has managed to shock and upset a few of the top teams this year including the likes of the Blackhawks and, most recently, the Ducks.
- Schneider shakes off the flu. Vancouver's number one netminder had been playing some of his best hockey of the season before being sidelined by the flu on Wednesday. He may still be feeling some aftereffects of being sick but if he can get back into his groove fairly quickly then there's little reason why the Canucks won't leave Denver with two points.
- Their power play keeps connecting. Don't look now but the Canucks' power play looks like it's finally awaken from its prolonged slumber. Vancouver has scored three times on 13 man-advantage opportunities (23.1 percent) over their last four outings. Their power play has been pretty solid in the season series against the Avs scoring twice on eight chances although they did not have a single power play opportunity in their most recent head-to-head meeting.
The Avalanche Win If...
- They treat this game like a championship affair. The Avalanche aren't going to finish anywhere near the playoffs this season so, as far as they are concerned, this game might as well be their version of the Stanley Cup. There will certainly be reason for them to celebrate if they can manage to snap their 10-game winless streak (0-8-2) against the Canucks. Colorado has not recorded a win against Vancouver in over two full years. Their last win over the Canucks was a 4-3 overtime victory at Rogers Arena back on January 18, 2011.
- Jiggy leads by example. It's tough to say whether or not Avs goalie J.S. Giguere's recent harsh comments has fired up his club but it certainly seems to have upped his own game. In his last two outings, Giguere has allowed only one goal on 34 shots. Assuming he gets the call again tonight, his teammates will need him to turn in another solid performance between the pipes and possibly steal them a game.
- They get some timely bounces. With the exception of their first meeting of the season – a 3-0 win by Vancouver – every game in the season series has essentially been a one-goal game if you don't count empty net markers. The only reason the Avs are still winless in the season series is because they haven't found a way to be the team that gets the critical goal to break a tie when the game is on the line. If today's game ends up being another close contest, they'll need to find a way to be that team.
Ones to Watch
It may have taken him a little more time than it did his brother but Daniel Sedin will finally get his turn to celebrate the milestone of playing in his 900th career NHL game this afternoon.
While the feat is no small matter – he'll be just the third Canuck in history to reach that mark joining Henrik along with Trevor Linden - Daniel will be more focused today on fine-tuning his offensive game as the playoffs draw near. The 32-year-old Swede snapped a five-game goal drought on Wednesday in Calgary but what was even more significant about his marker that night was that it was his third power play goal of the season and his first since January 25.
Daniel, who is now eight power play goals shy of tying the franchise-lead held by Markus Naslund, will look to get on the scoresheet again tonight versus an Avalanche team he has two points (1-1-2) against so far in the season series. In 65 career games versus Colorado, he has amassed 28 goals and 54 points.
Whether the Avalanche like it or not, Ryan O'Reilly will be a big part of their immediate future and, with that said, they will be expecting him to produce a lot more offensively than he has managed to over the last two weeks.
The 22-year-old, who was embroiled in a bitter contract dispute with the team earlier this season that was only resolved after he signed an offer sheet from the Flames which will see him earn a $6.5 million salary next year, certainly seemed like he was perhaps worthy of the big contract he received when he first rejoined the Avs as he put up four goals and 13 points in his first 13 outings. Since then, however, he's only managed a single assist in his last nine outings despite being one of the team's leaders in ice-time among forwards.
O'Reilly will try to get back to his earlier productive ways tonight when he suits up against the Canucks for the third time this season. He has two assists in two games versus Vancouver this season, and five assists in 19 career games against the Canucks overall.
Game Notes on Canucks.com are written by Daniel Fung. Follow him on Twitter @daniel_fung or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.