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Avalanche-Canucks Preview

AP - Sports

After picking up another two points, the Colorado Avalanche are suddenly two away from catching the Central Division leaders.

While the Avalanche's success is due in large part to their efforts on the road, it's been four years since they last won in Vancouver.

Colorado tries to avoid a 10th consecutive road loss to the Canucks, who will play their first game Thursday night since president and general manager Mike Gillis was fired and replaced by Trevor Linden.

While Linden taking over the franchise is big news, this game means so much more to the Avalanche considering they're in the playoff chase and the Canucks are not.

Colorado (51-21-7) is clicking on all cylinders with the playoffs fast approaching, allowing 1.9 goals per game during a 7-0-1 stretch. The Avalanche opened a season-ending four-game road trip Tuesday, defeating Edmonton 4-1 behind a goal and an assist from defenseman Erik Johnson.

Ryan O'Reilly and Nathan MacKinnon each notched two assists and Paul Stastny scored for the second time in three games, giving him 10 points over the last eight.

"We played the type of game that we need to play in the playoffs," said Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who made 22 saves in his first action in three weeks.

"It didn't matter that we were playing a team that is out of it. We stuck to our game and I was really impressed with the way we played, it's a really good time for our team."

The hot streak has seen Colorado climb past Chicago in the division and cut its deficit behind first-place St. Louis from nine points to two with three games left in the regular season.

"We just want to keep winning," Stastny said. "We want to get home ice. Whether we catch St. Louis or not, we just want to keep moving forward. If Chicago wins again, we have to win again to guarantee home ice for at least one run. But we're not looking that far ahead, we're just looking at the next game. We just have to keep playing well."

Colorado has played especially well away from home, going 8-1-1 in the last 10 road games and scoring at least three goals in all of them. The Avalanche have won the last four to improve to a league-best 25-10-3 as the visiting team, setting the franchise mark for road victories Tuesday.

"For some reason we're playing really well (on the road)," coach Patrick Roy told the NHL's official website. "We have a team record for wins on the road, and our players deserve credit for that. They're playing hard every night, and every day they come on the ice and they're ready to play. It makes me extremely proud of them."

The Avalanche now try to snap their woes in Vancouver, where they have been outscored 32-10 during an 0-8-1 skid. Colorado, limited to three goals in its last six visits, hasn't won there since a 4-3 shootout victory April 6, 2010.

The Canucks (35-33-11) created a stir by letting Gillis go a day after they were eliminated from the postseason with Monday's 3-0 loss to Anaheim. Vancouver had made five consecutive playoff appearances, including a trip to the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals.

"Not a very good feeling," said defenseman Kevin Bieksa, whose team has been outscored 15-6 during a 1-3-1 slide. "Not too familiar. It's been a while. We're disappointed for sure. The last few weeks have been very disappointing.

"We're all going to take the blame for this. It's not just one or two guys. It's the whole team."

A day later, the Canucks announced Linden would take over as president of hockey operations. Bieksa and the Sedin twins are among the current Vancouver players who were teammates of Linden, a former captain who last played in 2007-08 and is the franchise's all-time leader in games played with 1,140.

"I'm passionate about the Canucks and I want to win, just like our fans," Linden said. "I believe in this team and share the organization's commitment to excellence on and off of the ice. I am looking forward to getting started, getting to know everyone in the organization, and working together to win the Stanley Cup for this great city and province."

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