Avalanche-Canucks Preview


Shootouts have been very kind to the Colorado Avalanche all season, except earlier this month when they hosted Vancouver.

The Canucks are getting plenty of practice in tiebreakers, but they hope they won't need one Wednesday night as they look to take at least one point from the Avalanche for the 15th consecutive meeting.

Colorado (28-25-4) had won all seven of its shootouts this season and 10 straight overall until losing its most recent one Feb. 4, when Vancouver's Mason Raymond scored the lone shootout goal in a 3-2 win. Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa had tied the game with 35 seconds left in regulation.

That was one of five shootouts in Vancouver's last six games. The Canucks (35-15-6) have won five of eight shootouts during a 9-1-3 stretch, which has helped them build a hefty Northwest Division lead.

"We're comfortable in those games," Bieksa said Monday after a 2-1 shootout win over Phoenix. "In the shootout we've been getting better results at least."

Vancouver scored four times in six rounds in Monday's tiebreaker - including one from David Booth, who also scored in regulation. Booth has five goals and four assists in 11 games since returning from a knee injury.

He credited linemate Ryan Kesler, who has scored six times in his last nine contests and had the deciding shootout goal Monday.

"He's seeing the ice really well right now and that really helps me out when he can move the puck and just put it in good areas," Booth said.

Kesler, Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin each has seven goals during Vancouver's extended run of dominance over Colorado - a 12-0-2 stretch dating back to Nov. 1, 2009. Henrik Sedin also has 12 assists during that span, including one on each of his brother's three goals during a 6-0 win Dec. 6 in the Avs' most recent visit to Vancouver.

Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider both played in that game due to a Luongo injury. It's unclear who will be in net Wednesday, but Schneider has stopped 104 of 107 shots while going 3-0-0 in four appearances versus Colorado since the start of last season.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere could be back in the crease for the Avs after Semyon Varlamov suffered his fourth straight defeat Saturday in a 3-2 overtime loss at St. Louis. Giguere played earlier this month against Vancouver and has won both of his starts since, making 39 saves in Friday's 4-3 overtime victory over Carolina.

Colorado coach Joe Sacco seemed satisfied despite losing to the red-hot Blues, especially considering the game-winning goal went in off the elbow of a St. Louis skater. The Avs picked up a point for the fourth straight game.

"I like where we are at right now," Sacco said. "We had an opportunity to block that last shot and we didn't. It takes a funny bounce and it goes in."

The Avs may be looking to Paul Stastny during their three-game swing through Canada. Stastny has five multipoint games in his last 15, with Colorado winning all five - and going 0-7-3 otherwise.

The team has scored two or fewer goals 11 times in that stretch.

Offensive help could be on the way soon. Center Matt Duchene practiced Monday - without contact - for the first time since suffering a knee injury Dec. 29. He'll join the team on this trip, although it remains unclear when he'll return.

"He looks good out there," Stastny told the Avs' official website. "He brings life to this team."