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Sizzling Avalanche take on struggling Canucks

Jan 18, 2023; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Colorado Avalanche right wing Mikko Rantanen (96) celebrates his goal with teammates against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

What a difference a week has made for the Colorado Avalanche.

Heading into Friday’s road clash with the Vancouver Canucks, the Avalanche are on a three-game winning spree in which they’ve been a dominant squad. Colorado had won just one of its previous eight games.

The latest Colorado victory, a 4-1 win Wednesday in Calgary over the Flames, came despite missing star defenseman Cale Makar due to injury.

“It’s obviously impossible to replace Cale, the best (defenseman) in the world,” said forward Mikko Rantanen, who scored twice in his three-point game against the Flames. “I think we came together as a team. Just got to defend, that’s what we have to focus on. The goals are going to come.”

The goals certainly have been coming for the defending Stanley Cup champions. They have scored 17 in the three-game streak, led by the standouts.

Nathan MacKinnon, who collected two assists in Calgary, has posted 13 points (4-9-13) in a six-game point streak, while Artturi Lehkonen has scored five goals in a three-game spree.

“We’re playing so confident and it’s definitely a different game defensively,” goaltender Alexandar Georgiev said. “We’ve got to keep it going like that.”

There was no word Thursday whether Makar would be available for the game, although he is on the three-game trip (Seattle is next on Saturday) and is listed day-to-day. Before being injured, Makar was riding a six-game point streak in which he collected 10 points.

The Canucks are on the other side of the pendulum. Vancouver, which is coming off a 5-2 thumping Wednesday at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning, has just one win in six games and a 2-8-0 record in its last 10 outings.

Amid the struggles has been a steady stream of trade rumors, the loudest surrounding captain and pending unrestricted free agent Bo Horvat, and the future of coach Bruce Boudreau.

What the future holds remains to be seen, but the loss to Tampa Bay kicking off a four-game homestand was a disappointing performance for the Canucks. They trailed 4-0 before the end of the first period and the visitors easily coasted to victory against a Canucks team in disarray.

“We made a lot of mistakes right off the bat, and before you knew it, they’ve got four on you,” Boudreau said. “I thought our start was relatively good, the first five or six minutes, but once they get that first goal, I mean, it’s a continuous theme: We slump and the next thing you know, it’s a deficit that’s too hard to overcome.”

Despite all the talk of him leaving the Canucks by the March 3 trade deadline, Horvat continues to produce. He has collected four goals and 10 points in a nine-game point streak. Defenseman Quinn Hughes is also shining, having netted three goals and nine points in a five-game run.

The rest of the Canucks, however, are off their game.

“It’s our own fault for not being able to do what coaches are preaching. And that’s why we let in four in the first,” defenseman Luke Schenn said.

–Field Level Media