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 winning streak.
“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 win.
The Avalanche have been heading in the opposite direction from Vancouver, having scored 10 total goals during their 0-7-1 slide.
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.