Canucks-Avalanche Preview

The Associated Press

Whether it's been Cory Schneider or Roberto Luongo in net, the Vancouver Canucks have been on a tear while taking control of the Northwest Division race.

Neither goaltender has had much of a problem versus the Colorado Avalanche in recent seasons.

Vancouver seeks an 11th straight win over last-place Colorado and fifth consecutive victory overall as it continues a five-game road trip Saturday.

Schneider had gone 9-2-0 with a 1.29 goals-against average and four shutouts while making 11 consecutive starts, but he fell extremely ill prior to Wednesday's contest at Calgary.

Enter Luongo, who has been actively shopped on the trade market since the end of last season and especially heavily prior to the April 3 trade deadline. He made 40 saves in his first start since March 18 and backstopped the Canucks to a 4-1 victory to kick off their road trip.

''It hasn't been easy, I'm not going to lie. But you want to stay prepared and make sure if something happens that you're ready to go,'' Luongo said. ''I went through a lot in the last few weeks, so I really wanted to really make sure that I showed the guys that I'm here for the rest of the year and I'm 100 percent dedicated.''

Maxim Lapierre, Mason Raymond and Daniel Sedin scored in the third period for Vancouver (23-11-6), which holds the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference by virtue of leading Minnesota by six points atop the Northwest.

The Canucks were tied with the Wild before winning 10 of 12 overall, including a pair of wins over Colorado in that stretch.

"It's incredible what he's gone through this year," Raymond said of Luongo. "Having not played a lot, then to come in and play the way he did was fantastic."

It's unclear if Schneider will be healthy enough to go Saturday, though it may not matter who is net. Vancouver has earned at least one point in 20 consecutive meetings versus the Avalanche (18-0-2) and outscored them 32-10 during its 10-game winning streak in the series.

Schneider is 6-0-0 with a 0.91 GAA in his last seven appearances versus the Avalanche. He made 26 saves in a 3-2 win March 24 before stopping 31 shots in a 4-1 win March 28.

Luongo has gone 11-0-2 with a 2.06 GAA in his last 13 starts versus Colorado, which has dropped six of eight at home and is last in the West.

The Avalanche (13-22-6) ended a five-game skid with a surprising 4-1 win at Anaheim on Wednesday after Jean-Sebastian Giguere publicly ripped the team, but then fell 3-2 in a shootout to Los Angeles the following night.

Sami Aittokallio made 23 saves in his first NHL start before having to leave in the third period with leg cramps, and Giguere made 12 stops in relief. Paul Stastny and Patrick Bordeleau scored to help the Avs overcome a two-goal deficit.

''There's been lots of positives the last two games,'' Giguere said. ''We needed a bit of a push-back from the guys. I think we did that the last couple of nights.''

No matter Colorado's standing nor the recent success in the series, Vancouver doesn't plan to take this contest lightly.

"There is no easy game,'' Raymond said. "Guys are fighting for jobs ... teams are trying to make a push for the playoffs. You have to prepare like every game is a playoff game at this time of year.''

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