Canucks take aim at Northwest title in Colorado

The Vancouver Canucks will try to become the first team in the NHL to clinch their respective division tonight with a sixth straight win over the Colorado Avalanche.

The Canucks have 97 points on the season, 12 ahead of the second-place Avalanche in the Northwest standings. With Colorado only having six games left on its schedule, a point this evening by Vancouver would wrap up its fourth straight division crown.

Vancouver also trails St. Louis by four points for the top seed in the Western Conference with a game in hand and won for only the fourth time this month with Thursday's 2-1 victory in Dallas.

Backup Cory Schneider made 25 saves, Mason Raymond scored in the first period and Kevin Bieksa had the winner early in the third for the Canucks as they picked up their first victory on a four-game road trip that ends tonight.

"This was a big win for us because we are that much closer to clinching now," said Raymond. "We're starting to click again and it's good to get on a roll heading into the playoffs."

The Canucks were playing their first game since forward Daniel Sedin was sent back to Vancouver after taking an elbow to the head from Chicago's Duncan Keith in Wednesday's overtime loss to the Blackhawks. Keith was suspended five games for the hit on Friday.

Vancouver may be just fine without Sedin tonight given that it has won five straight and is 13-0-2 in its past 15 versus Colorado. The Canucks haven't lost in regulation in this series since Oct. 3, 2009 and have taken six of their past seven trips to Colorado.

These two clubs wrap their six-game series on Wednesday in Vancouver.

With virtually no chance at a division title, the Avs shift their focus to the final playoff berth in the West. Colorado's 85 points match eighth-seeded Dallas, but the Stars have the current tiebreaker because they have two games in hand.

The Avs are also just one point ahead of the Sharks in the standings and two in front of the Flames. San Jose also has two games in hand over Colorado, which had points in six straight (5-0-1) before suffering a 3-2 loss to the hosting Coyotes on Thursday.

Colorado trailed by three goals heading into the third period, but made things interesting with goals from Ryan O'Reilly and Paul Stastny, whose 20th goal of the season came with 5:39 to play.

"It's one of those games where we had a few turnovers and they took advantage of it," said Stastny. "But this time of year we have to find ways to win and tonight we didn't."

Semyon Varlamov gave up all three goals on 25 shots in the loss.

Erik Johnson missed his second straight game with back spasms for the Avalanche, who begin a three-game road trip on Monday in San Jose before playing their final two games of the season at home.