Canucks vs. Avalanche Preview
Denver, CO - Once considered a key part of the Colorado Avalanche's future, goaltender Peter Budaj is proving he can at least be a worthy replacement right now.
Budaj will try to continue his solid play in place of the injured Craig Anderson when the Avalanche host the surging Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SBGGLOBAL.com have made the Canucks –125 money line favorites for Thursday's game against the Avalanche. Current MLB Public Betting Information shows that 64% of more than 628 bets for this game have been placed on the Canucks -125.
Budaj played a team-high 182 games during a four-season stretch before being moved to the bench in favor of Anderson last season. A native of the former Czechoslovakia, Budaj lost his status as starter after Colorado (6-4-1) overhauled its roster following a last-place finish in the Western Conference in 2008-09.
Anderson's success limited Budaj to a career-low 15 games last season as the Avalanche returned to the playoffs.
Budaj, however, is trying to make a case for more playing time after Anderson was lost indefinitely to a knee injury suffered during warmups prior to a 4-3 overtime loss at Vancouver (6-3-2) on Oct. 26.
"The circumstances are not pleasant to see your fellow goaltender get hurt, but it's an opportunity for me," said Budaj, who is 3-0-1 with a 3.43 goals-against average. "Every goalie wants to play, glad to get to play. I'm going to make most of it.
"I'm still going to strive to be a No. 1 goalie and try to battle whenever I get a chance to play, show everybody what I can do."
He was impressive Saturday, stopping 34 shots in a 5-1 win over Columbus in the opener of a four-game homestand. That came two nights after he struggled while making 14 saves in a 6-5 win at Calgary.
Budaj is 4-0-2 with a 1.94 GAA in his last six starts against the Canucks, including a 27-save performance last week that ended 28 seconds into overtime on a goal by Vancouver's Mason Raymond.
Colorado has dropped five of six to Vancouver and is 1-3-1 in the last five home meetings. The Avalanche, though, enter this matchup following two of their best offensive showings.
Chris Stewart is a big reason for the scoring burst, getting one goal and one assist Saturday following his second career hat trick against the Flames. The right wing leads Colorado with nine goals and 16 points, while getting eight and 14, respectively, during a career high-tying eight-game points streak.
Stewart has a goal and three assists in the last three matchups with the Canucks.
Vancouver is looking for its longest winning streak since winning seven in a row from Jan. 16-30. The club extended its current run to four Tuesday, beating Edmonton 4-3 behind veteran Raffi Torres' first career hat trick.
The left wing has five of his six goals on the season in the last four games.
"(Torres) has been a real solid player for us," coach Alain Vigneault said. "He came into camp with a great attitude and with really good conditioning. He's been doing the right things for us on and off the ice."
Raymond may play a significant role versus Colorado again. The left wing has three goals and five assists over the last six meetings, while Henrik Sedin has nine points in the last five.The All-Star center leads the Canucks with 12 assists, and is tied with his twin brother, Daniel, for the team lead with 13 points.