Two points from third

BOB MACKIN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:48 AM ET

The Vancouver Canucks don't need to win any of their remaining three games to clinch third place in the Western conference. Two trips to overtime or a Minnesota Wild loss would give them the third berth by virtue of their perch atop the Northwest division.

The Canucks, however, could make it decisive with a win tonight when the Colorado Avalanche visit (7 p.m. Team 1040/ pay-per-view). Captain Joe Sakic and Brett McLean led the Avs to a 5-4 shootout win last time they visited GM Place. The Canucks responded with a 3-0 win at Denver, including a pair of last minute empty-netters. Since then, Vancouver's play can only be described as lacklustre. They had trouble beating the 28th place Los Angeles Kings by a 4-2 score after losing 3-2 to Calgary Flames.

A win tonight would allow head coach Alain Vigneault to rest Roberto Luongo for one or both of the remaining games in San Jose Saturday and Phoenix Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Canucks can have some satisfaction for helping prevent the Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes from defending their title.

The Hurricanes, who were 4-3 overtime losers in their Vancouver visit last December, were eliminated from the playoff race on Tuesday. They're the first team since the 1995 Cup-winning New Jersey Devils to sit out the following season's tournament.


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