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Game Preview: Canucks Host Avalanche

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Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps Patrick Roy is finally starting to figure this whole back-to-back thing out. Instead of grinding Semyon Varlamov into the ice at every available opportunity, he started more-than-competent backup Calvin Pickard last night in a victory against the struggling Edmonton Oilers, and saved his top netminder for tonight against the more competitive Canucks. Part one of the decision paid off; now it's time to see if the Avs can come away with another win on this short road trip.

Vancouver has lost four straight games against Calgary, Anaheim, Minnesota, and Toronto -- leaving them at 56 points, 10 out of the playoffs. But when they visited Colorado a couple of weeks ago on the February 9th, they won 3-1 in pretty comfortable fashion. Promising second-year player Bo Horvat had a goal and an assist and Jacob Markstrom made 29 saves to ensure the victory. The Avalanche, who had not been playing particularly well, somehow managed to hit a new low. I wrote the following in the game recap:

Anyone lucky enough to turn off the television sometime during the 2nd Period tonight and go read a book, I envy you. The Avalanche weren't coming back. You could see it in their skating, their body language, their listless efforts at the net -- once Vancouver got up 2-1 with 3:38 left, Colorado was going to lose.

Colorado needs better from its entire unit, because middling teams like the Canucks need to be beaten if they maintain aspirations to reach the postseason. Last night's game against the Oilers was a major step in the right direction. Roy rolled four balanced lines and got production from his most important player in route to victory. Tyson Barrie returned to being the dominant offensive force he was before the All-Star break, and Nathan MacKinnon found chemistry with Alex Tanguay and Gabriel Landeskog to create an imposing possession monster for much of the game. They'll need that in more to beat the 'Nuck on the second night of a back-to-back.

The good news, though, is the Avs are pretty good in such games this season, going 6-2-0 on zero days rest. They've also beaten Vancouver the last two times at the Rogers Arena.

No word on any lineup changes. Nathan MacKinnon appeared to take a hard slapshot off the foot during the final possession last night, though Mike Chambers of the Denver Post reports he was walking around fine after the game. Cody McLeod may also be an injury concern after repeated punching his left fist against Zach Kassian's helmet early in the 1st Period. He was bleeding quite a bit in the sin bin and requested ice at the time, though the injury did not prevent him from returning to the game. However, playing only 7:10 total, it begs the question whether or not he was completely healthy. My guess is that we might see Chris Wagner get a start tonight in his place. Let's take a stab at a lineup:


Lineups

Grigorenko - Duchene - Iginla

Tanguay - MacKinnon - Landeskog

Mitchell - Soderberg - Comeau

Martinsen - Wagner - Skille

*  *  *

Beauchemin - Johnson

Holden - Barrie

Bigras - Bodnarchuk

*  *  *

Varlamov

Pickard