The M*A*S*H* unit is visiting Vancouver as both the Canucks and Avalanche are dealing with late season injuries to key players. The Canucks hit the ice at GM Place tonight without arguably their best defenseman, Christian Ehrhoff, and one of their best penalty killers in Ryan Johnson. The Avalanche, meanwhile, are without their trade deadline superstar, as Peter Mueller is out with a concussion.
Tonight’s game is effectively meaningless for the Vancouver canucks. They have officially locked up the Northwest Division title, and it’s almost impossible for them to move to second spot in the conference. Conversely, the Avalanche are still playing for their playoff lives, as they look to lock up the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. A win for the Avs tonight will not mathematically give them the last spot for the post-season, but it will almost guarantee that they cannot be caught by the Calgary Flames.
The feat will not be an easy one for the Avalanche tonight, as the Canucks have positively owned them this season. After a loss in the second game of the season, the Canucks have dominated the Avs in their last four meetings, winning all four and outscoring them 22-8, including an improbable comeback victory in Denver last month. The other issue for the Avalanche is that, while Vancouver has been inconsistent in its last 10 games, Colorado have been substandard. The Avs have been a mere 3-6-1 in their 10 games, leaving many to wonder if Colorado has simply run out of gas. With a young roster who may not be used to the long grind of the NHL, Colorado appears to have hit the wall.
The two main purposes for the Canucks in their final three games should be to:
1. Fine-tune the aspects of their game that need work. They need to cut down on goals against in the first period, and they need to ratchet up their powerplay.
2. Keep their best players healthy. Sami "Glass" Salo needs to avoid being injured in every way possible. So, sit him out. If ANY Canucks player has any hint of an injury they should sit out and call up guys from the Moose. We already know that Nolan Baumgartner is going to see game action this week. We also know that Raycroft will likely get the start in San Jose on Thursday. We should see more of that.
Right now, it does the Canucks no good whatsoever to keep their anyone with a tweak or a nagging injury in the roster. Let him rest. Let him get ready for the playoffs.
But for tonight, just take care of the Avalance. The Canucks could make the last few days of the season very interesting for both the Avs and the Flames. Let’s just hope they get out healthy.