What's at stake
Worried? Why would the winless-in-four Vancouver Canucks have anything to worry about?
Sure, Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows aren't scoring goals. And the team has fallen behind 2-0 in six of its past seven games. And No. 1 goalie Roberto Luongo ranks 25th in save percentage among NHL goalies with at least 10 starts.
A year ago, Vancouver sported a 10-10-0 record at the quarter-pole and was in the midst of a three-game skid. The Canucks also won the Northwest Division in 2009 and in 2007 when they started 14-6-0 and 9-10-1, respectively.
"We've been through way worse things than this," Henrik Sedin, who has two goals in 20 games this season and zero in his last eight outings, told Vancouver reporters ahead of Wednesday's visit by the Northwest-leading Colorado Avalanche. "Guys who haven't played too long look at every shift and every game like it's an up-and-down battle.
By the numbers
Goals scored: 72
Goals against: 60
Current streak: 4 W
Goals scored: 58
Goals against: 56
Current streak: 4 L
Puck drop: 7 p.m. PT
Rink: Rogers Arena, Vancouver
"You've got to look at the long run. If you play your game, you're going to win more often than not."
Of late, Vancouver's game has consisted of early deficits, players pressing and defensive slip-ups. The effort was better in Sunday's 3-2 loss to Phoenix that followed a 7-1 drubbing at the hands of Chicago on Saturday.
But the Canucks do boast the league's top power play at 27 per cent (the Avalanche rank 20th in penalty minutes per game) and are 8-1-1 when they score first … so there's hope.
Colorado has won four straight, the latest a 4-3 shootout verdict at Dallas, where Kevin Porter scored the winning goal against Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen.
Players to watch
Colorado — John-Michael Liles
The NHL's reigning No. 2 star of the week has nine points in his past six games and 20 in as many games overall to go with a team-best plus-11 rating. It's been a nice turnaround for the seventh-year defenceman, who recorded just 31 points in 59 contests last year after a 39-point campaign the previous season.
Vancouver — Jeff Tambellini
The 26-year-old will get a chance to stick around for a longer period than his three-game stint with the Canucks earlier this season after fellow left-winger Peter Schaefer cleared waivers Wednesday and was re-assigned to the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Manitoba.
The son of former NHLer and current Edmonton Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini had five goals and seven points in as many games with the Moose and will skate on a line with Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond against Colorado.
Colorado — Craig Anderson
Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco indicated Anderson would get the nod following his successful return from a knee injury Friday against the New York Rangers. After missing 10 games, he stopped 25 of 26 shots and then sat in favour of Peter Budaj on Saturday at Dallas, so he's well rested. Budaj was in net for the two previous games versus Vancouver this season, both losses.
Vancouver — Roberto Luongo
Luongo has struggled with consistency this season and been victimized by a lack of down-low coverage by the Canucks defence. Granted, he's still adapting to a new deeper-in-the-crease style introduced by goalie coach Roland Melanson.
Pulled for the second time this season in Saturday's 7-1 loss to Chicago, he rebounded with a 25-save performance in Sunday's 3-2 setback to Phoenix. He has an ordinary 7-7-2 record in 16 appearances and his 2.88 goals-against average and .907 save percentage rank 37th and 32nd respectively.
The Canucks took the first two meetings of the season, 4-3 in overtime at Vancouver on Oct. 26 and 3-1 in Denver on Nov. 4. Raymond, who notched the OT goal, has managed just one goal in 11 games since and is battling a sore hand. The teams don't face each other again until Jan. 2 at Colorado.
Colorado — Forward Matt Duchene and defenceman Adam Foote are expected to suit up after taking "maintenance days" on Monday. They returned for Tuesday's on-ice workout.
Vancouver — Defenceman Keith Ballard, who missed both weekend games with the flu, skated on his own Tuesday before joining his teammates and should be good to go. Centre Alexandre Bolduc (high ankle sprain) and rearguard Sami Salo (torn Achilles tendon) remain out, but Bolduc is skating and could return to practice later in the week.
The road ahead
Colorado wraps up a three-game trip at Edmonton Thursday before hosting the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. Vancouver welcomes San Jose on Friday night ahead of a four-day break.