Canucks-Avalanche Preview

Semyon Varlamov has never beaten the Vancouver Canucks, but the absence of Henrik Sedin may help him change that.

Varlamov has beaten every other team he has faced and will be in goal Thursday night when the Colorado Avalanche meet a visiting Canucks club that figures to be desperate.

Colorado coach Patrick Roy beat Vancouver 27 times in 42 starts, but his No. 1 goalie has yet to taste such success. Varlamov is 0-6-1 with a 2.95 goals-against average in seven starts versus the Canucks.

Sedin has one goal and five assists in those contests, but he will miss a second straight game with a leg injury. The center leads Vancouver (34-30-10) with 46 points.

The Canucks won their third straight, 5-2 at Minnesota on Wednesday. They are four points behind Phoenix for the Western Conference’s final wild-card spot.

”It’s huge, we’re in a do-or-die position,” said winger Alexandre Burrows, who returned after missing Sunday’s 4-2 win over Buffalo with a hand injury. ”If we would have lost this game, we probably would have been out of the race.”

David Booth scored twice to give him three goals in his last two games and Eddie Lack made 29 saves.

"We still have a lot of things to continue to work on as we go through the next couple of weeks here," coach John Tortorella said. "We’re breathing. That’s the most important thing."

Colorado (45-21-6) is closing in on clinching a playoff spot and is three points behind Chicago for second place in the Central Division.

"We still believe that we can catch Chicago," Roy said. "They play Boston in Boston (on Thursday). It’s still possible, we still believe we can have home-ice advantage. We want to look up, we don’t want to look behind us."

The Avalanche are 3-16-3 in their last 22 games against the Canucks, and fell 3-1 on the road Dec. 8, in the lone meeting this season. Mike Santorelli had two goals and an assist, but he’s out for the season with an arm injury.

Colorado hasn’t been playing well, ending a three-game slide Tuesday with a 5-4 shootout win over lowly Nashville. Gabriel Landeskog scored two goals in regulation and then netted the winner in the shootout.

A developing storyline for the Avalanche is how winger Ryan O’Reilly has yet to go into the penalty box. If he finishes the season by doing so, he will become the first skater to do so in an 82-game campaign.

"It’s a lot of good luck, obviously there’s been some times when I maybe got away with one," said O’Reilly, who is the only skater in the league who has played 50 games and recorded no penalty minutes. "I don’t really think about it too much. It’s obviously not a great stat to have, it’d be nice to have a fight or two to make me look a little tougher."

Roy is unclear on the status of forward John Mitchell, who has missed three straight games with a back injury.

"He could play as soon as the next game, or he could miss another three or four," the coach told the Avalanche’s official website.