Canucks-Avalanche Preview

The Vancouver Canucks continue to keep pace at the top of the

Northwest Division, and lately they’ve had their goalie to thank.

Meanwhile, the Colorado Avalanche have been plagued by poor

goaltending and continue to struggle at the bottom of the

division.

Vancouver will look to continue its good fortunes and its

dominance of the Avalanche on Sunday night in Denver.

The Canucks are 16-0-2 in their last 18 meetings with the

Avalanche, outscoring them 66-29 during that stretch and shutting

them out five times, including a 3-0 home win on Jan. 30.

Vancouver (16-9-6) won its third straight and fifth in seven

games after a 1-0 victory at Los Angeles on Saturday helped it stay

tied with Minnesota for first in the Northwest. Stellar goaltending

from Cory Schneider has helped key the team’s win streak, with

Saturday marking his sixth career shutout.

Schneider hasn’t been officially announced as the starter for

Sunday but would figure to be a solid option since he has recorded

shutouts in two of his last three starts against the Avalanche.

He’s stopped 85 of 88 shots over Vancouver’s last three contests,

improving to 8-5-3 this season.

“It’s nice to have consecutive efforts in a row like that. When

you have a good one and then a bad one, it’s a little frustrating,”

Schneider said. “You can’t sit on that and pat yourself on the

back. You have to keep doing it, and that’s the challenge of

playing a lot of games.”

Colorado’s hopes for its first playoff appearance since 2010 are

quickly dimming as the club sits last in the conference, seven

points out of a playoff spot with 18 games remaining. The deficit

seems even deeper considering the goaltending the Avalanche

(11-15-4) have recently received.

They’ve dropped five of six after a 5-2 loss at Dallas on

Saturday – the fourth time in five games they’ve yielded five or

more goals. Semyon Varlamov has started each of those games,

posting an .866 save percentage and getting pulled twice –

including Saturday after he allowed four goals on 15 shots.

The Avalanche have also developed a bad habit of slow starts.

After falling behind 2-0 in the first period on Saturday, Colorado

has been outscored 36-19 in the first 20 minutes of games.

“We’re getting scored on way too early and way too much right

now,” Matt Duchene said. “We’re playing catch-up all game long. We

haven’t played with the lead in God knows how long and it’s

frustrating, that’s for sure. We can’t afford to put ourselves

behind the eight-ball every game.”

Making matters worse, Colorado’s offense may be shorthanded

going forward as captain Gabriel Landeskog was a late scratch for

Saturday’s game due to a torso injury. Landeskog, considered

day-to-day, had already missed 11 games this year with head and leg

injuries but had scored goals in a personal-best four straight

games.

Vancouver’s recent success has had nothing to do with its power

play, which continues to be anemic. The Canucks have scored one

goal on 43 chances over their last 15 games, with the last goal

coming Monday in a 3-1 loss to Minnesota. Before that, the last

power-play goal was Feb. 21 in a 4-3 win at Dallas.

Defenseman Alex Edler will serve the second of his two-game

suspension he received after charging Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith

behind the net in Thursday’s 2-1 win at Phoenix.