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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, April 13th (All times Eastern)

Vancouver Canucks (23-11-6) at Colorado Avalanche (13-22-6), 3 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The red-hot Vancouver Canucks will aim for a fifth consecutive victory when they visit the Colorado Avalanche for Saturday's afternoon battle at the Pepsi Center.

Vancouver, which leads the Northwest Division by six points over Minnesota, followed up a perfect 3-0 homestand with Thursday's win at Calgary. With the 4-1 victory over the Flames, the Canucks have outscored the opposition by a 15-3 margin during their winning streak.

The Canucks have won 10 of their last 12 games overall as they try to nail down their fifth consecutive division title. Minnesota is also in action on Saturday, as the Wild are scheduled to host Columbus.

Maxim Lapierre potted the game-winner for Vancouver as part of a three-goal third period in Thursday's win at the Saddledome. Mason Raymond, Alexandre Burrows and Daniel Sedin each scored once, while Roberto Luongo stopped 40 shots for the Canucks in his first action in net since March 30. Cory Schneider was supposed to start the contest, but was scratched due to flu-like symptoms.

"He was really, really good," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said of Luongo. "He looked really focused, really confident. He had great rebound control. He played a solid game."

Schneider is expected to be back between the pipes on Saturday and is 6-0-1 with a 1.30 goals against average in eight career appearances against the Avalanche, who are tied for last in the NHL with 32 points.

The Canucks have simply dominated the Avalanche in recent years, winning 10 straight, 14 of 15 and 18 of the last 20 meetings. Vancouver also has claimed four in a row and eight of nine in Denver.

Vancouver is 10-6-3 as the visiting team this season and is playing the second test of a five-game road trip today.

The Avalanche dropped a shootout decision Thursday in Los Angeles and fell to 1-4-2 in April. Colorado is headed for its third straight spring without a postseason.

Colorado rallied from down 2-0 to force overtime against the Kings on Thursday, but the hosts overcame blowing the lead earn the 3-2 win in L.A. The Kings' trio of Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar were a perfect 3-for-3 in the shootout against Colorado goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

Paul Stastny and Patrick Bordeleau provided the goals for the Avalanche, who had snapped a 14-game road losing streak Wednesday in Anaheim.

Giguere, meanwhile, was called into action when 20-year-old Finn Sami Aittokallio, making his NHL debut, departed at the 9:24 mark of the third period due to cramps.

"Sami left the game with cramps in both legs," said Colorado head coach Joe Sacco. "It was pretty serious because he couldn't finish the game. He was just dehydrated."

Aittokallio made 23 saves, while Giguere turned aside all 12 shots he faced through the rest of regulation and overtime. Aittokallio is only with the Avalanche because regular No. 1 netminder Semyon Varlamov has been unable to suit up for the last three games due to a hip injury.

Varlamov is questionable for Saturday, as are forward Chuck Kobasew (back) and defenseman Erik Johnson (hand). Winger Milan Hejduk has sat out the last six games with a foot injury, but there's a good chance he could play this afternoon.

Colorado is playing the first of four straight on home ice today. The Avs are 10-7-2 in Denver this season compared to a dreadful 3-15-4 record on the road.

04/13 10:16:12 ET

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