NHL

Canucks try to upend Avalanche again; Oilers host Wild

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The Sports Network
1/18/2011 11:58:34 AM
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(Sports Network) - The Vancouver Canucks have hit a bit of a rough patch since their club-record 17-game point streak came to an end. A matchup with the Colorado Avalanche could help them get right back on track.

The Northwest Division-leading Canucks aim for a fifth victory in as many meetings this year with their closest division competitor tonight in a battle at the Pepsi Center.

Vancouver has lost two of its last three in regulation since a 14-0-3 run from Dec. 8-Jan. 11, getting shut out in both setbacks. The Canucks are still a point up on the Flyers and two ahead of the Red Wings for the most in the NHL, and their 64 points are good enough for a 12-point advantage over the second- place Avalanche in the division.

The Canucks' point streak ended last Thursday with a 1-0 setback at the New York Rangers, and after a victory at Washington the following night, they fell to 2-2 on a five-game road trip with a 4-0 setback at Minnesota on Sunday.

Vancouver fired 32 shots on net, but came up empty, while Cory Schneider allowed four goals on 25 shots faced.

"We didn't help ourselves at all. That's kind of what it came to," said Vancouver defenseman Keith Ballard. "There were a few scrambles in front of their net that probably could have went either way and they went their way tonight."

Ballard's unit has also taken a hit as of late. After recently losing defenseman Aaron Rome for 2-to-3 weeks due to an MCL sprain, fellow blueliner Andrew Alberts suffered a shoulder injury in the first period of Sunday's loss and did not return.

The Canucks have played well at both ends of the ice in their season series with the Avalanche so far, outscoring them 13-7 in taking all four meetings. Vancouver has also won eight of its last nine versus Colorado overall as well as four straight and six of the last seven played at the Pepsi Center.

Roberto Luongo should get the start tonight for the Canucks and is 3-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average in three starts versus the Avs this year.
With just two games left this year versus the Canucks -- the two clubs wrap their season series on March 16 in Vancouver -- the Avalanche would love to get two points tonight and win for just the fifth time in their last 13 games. Colorado is just 4-6-2 since a six-game win streak from Dec. 10-19 and is barely holding on to the eighth spot in the Western Conference.

The Avs' most recent test was also in Minnesota, where they recorded a 4-1 win on Friday. Craig Anderson made 32 saves and Milan Hejduk was one of four different goal scorers.

"It was a good team effort tonight," Hejduk said.

Forward Chris Stewart also returned to the lineup for the first time since Nov. 27, when he suffered a broken hand in a fight versus the Wild. He had missed the last 21 games and was Colorado's leading scorer before the injury.

While Stewart returned, forward Ryan O'Reilly left Friday's game on a stretcher after going head-first into the boards in the second period while chasing down a loose puck. He was taken to St. Paul's Regions Hospital, where he was alert and able to move his extremities.

Colorado did receive good news on O'Reilly as his shoulder injury will not require surgery, though it will sideline him for a few weeks.

Defenseman Kyle Cumiskey could return tonight in time for the start of Colorado's five-game homestand. The blueliner hasn't played since Oct. 30 due to a concussion.

Colorado has lost six of its last eight at home (2-4-2), while Anderson is just 2-9-1 with a 3.39 GAA in his career versus the Canucks.\


Minnesota Wild at Edmonton Oilers


(Sports Network) - The Minnesota Wild are hoping a victory over the NHL's top team can jump start a winning streak.

The Wild will look to avoid a letdown this evening against the club with the fewest points in the Western Conference as they visit the Edmonton Oilers and Rexall Place.

The Oilers will try to take back home-ice advantage tonight after posting a 1-4-0 mark on a recent road trip. Edmonton closed out the swing on Sunday in Anaheim with a 3-2 loss.

Rookie Magnus Paajarvi and Sam Gagner scored 26 seconds apart late in the second period for Edmonton, while Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 25 shots in his eighth straight loss.

"We thought tonight we did a good job of sustaining cycles and keeping the puck in their end. We made it difficult on them," Gagner said of his line.

Edmonton, which is last in the West with just 35 points, will play its next three games at home, where it has lost four of its last five.

Khabibulin, who hasn't won since Dec. 16, is 4-9-2 with a 2.54 GAA versus the Wild franchise.

Minnesota had been outscored 13-2 in losing three straight before a big 4-0 victory over visiting Vancouver on Sunday. The Canucks lead the NHL with 64 points, while the Wild are tied for 10th in the West with 49 points.

With both Jose Theodore and Niklas Backstrom battling injury, Anton Khudobin made his third career start and second straight, notching 32 saves for his first career shutout.

"They play 60 minutes. It doesn't matter what the score is," said the 24-year- old Khudobin. "They just play as hard as they can. I was ready for that."

Matt Cullen matched a career high with his third short-handed goal of the season, while Andrew Brunette, Martin Havlat and John Madden also scored in the victory.

Minnesota now opens a four-game road trip and it is unknown who will get the start in net. Theodore is questionable with his aliment, while Backstrom was able to dress as the backup on Sunday. He hasn't appeared in a game since Dec. 31.

Backstrom is an outstanding 16-2-1 with a 1.76 goals-against average versus the Oilers, while Theodore is 5-10-0 with a 3.72 GAA. Khudobin has faced them just once in relief, stopping all nine shots faced for a victory in his NHL debut on Feb. 4 of last season.

The Wild picked up a pair of 4-2 victories over the Oilers back in October, with their 4-2 triumph at Edmonton on Oct. 21 snapping a seven-game winning streak by the home team in this series.

The triumph also halted Minnesota's three-game slide at Rexall Place and was its third win in the last four meetings overall.

Alex Burrows (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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