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Canucks look to pick up points against Avalanche

By Mike Lipka

Stats Writer

Colorado (31-44-2) at Vancouver (42-26-10), 10:00 p.m. EDT

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- The Vancouver Canucks need

points as they chase a Northwest Division title. Facing the

Colorado Avalanche looks like a pretty good way to get them.

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.

In addition to Smyth, Paul Stastny and Joe Sakic also remain a

part of Colorado's lengthy injured list, leaving the team

without its leading scorers from its previous four seasons as

well.

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