CANUCKS (10-10-0) at AVALANCHE (12-4-3)
Tonight's game will be broadcast on Altitude, CBC and Mile High Sports Radio AM 1510.
Last 10 -- Canucks (5-5-0); Avalanche (6-3-1)
Season series -- The teams have split their first two meetings, with the Canucks earning a 3-0 victory on Nov. 1 in Vancouver behind backup goalie Andrew Raycroft, who made 18 saves against his former team. The Avs won 3-0 on Oct. 3 at Pepsi Center.
Big story -- The Canucks will be concluding a five-game, 10-day road trip when they meet the Avalanche at Pepsi Center for the second time this season. Vancouver is 1-3-0 so far and has dropped three in a row following a 3-1 loss to Detroit on Thursday. The Canucks had better get used to traveling, as they'll embark on an historic six-week sabbatical away from home beginning Jan. 30 that will fly them throughout the far reaches of North America before finally returning home to GM Place on March 13. The 14-day Olympic break works out to an NHL-record 14-game road trip for the Canucks.
Canucks -- Goalie Roberto Luongo was pushed into duty earlier than expected on Wednesday after missing six games with a rib fracture. Luongo saw his first action since Oct. 27 when he replaced an ineffective Raycroft (four goals allowed on 13 shots) after the first period of a 6-1 loss at St. Louis. He looked comfortable, yielding two power-play goals on 17 shots. On Thursday, he started and was relatively sharp in a 26-save loss to the Red Wings. The same can't be said for the team's leading scorer the last three seasons, Daniel Sedin, who has been sidelined the last 16 games with a broken foot. Without him in the lineup, the Canucks have scored just once in three straight losses.
Avalanche -- Since starting the season 10-1-2, the Avalanche has come down to earth a bit, going 2-3-1 over its last six. Perhaps a new jersey will do the trick -- the Avs will unveil their new third jersey on Saturday against the Canucks. The new sweaters have a dominant blue color, unlike the mainly-burgundy regular home jerseys.
Maybe the new duds will help Avs rookie Matt Duchene, who hit three posts in a 3-2 shootout loss to Chicago on Wednesday. The No. 3 pick in the Entry Draft last June has produced just one point in his last nine games.
"You get concerned when you aren't generating chances, but he's been doing that," Colorado coach Joe Sacco said. "He keeps working and keeps moving his feet and skating, so I'm not concerned."
Who's hot -- Colorado's Ryan O'Reilly is tied for the NHL rookie scoring lead with 14 points (four goals) -- all of which have come at even strength -- in 19 games. The 18-year-old is also leading all rookies and his team with a plus-14 rating.
Injury report -- The Canucks will be without Daniel Sedin (broken foot) for another week and are still missing Michael Grabner (broken ankle) and Pavol Demitra (shoulder). Forward Darcy Hordichuk returns from a one-game suspension. Avalanche forward Milan Hejduk (back) is day-to-day and defenseman Tom Preissing (knee surgery) has completed a two-game conditioning stint with Lake Erie in the AHL and could play Saturday.
Stat Pack -- Colorado first-line wing David Jones leads the team with two short-handed goals this season. He's the first Colorado player to score two or more short-handed goals in a season since Brad Richardson connected for three in 2006-07. As a team, the Avs have three short-handers this season -- tied for second in the NHL -- after scoring just four all last season. … Colorado is 8-0-2 when leading after two periods.
Puck drop -- The Canucks are dealing with some key injuries right now and the Avalanche has played some great hockey on home ice (6-1-0) behind the goaltending of Craig Anderson (11-4-3, 2.29 GAA, .930 save percentage), who shut out the Canucks on the first Saturday of the season.