Coming off 1-0 shootout victory in San Jose against division rivals the Sharks, the Phoenix Coyotes quickly jetted from the Bay Area and headed for the Mile High City to face off against the Colorado Avalanche for the first of three meetings this season.
Saturday's matinee contest against the San Jose Sharks proved how resilient the Phoenix squad really is. Coming off their worst game under the coaching of Dave Tippett, the Coyotes looked to come back in a big way against the Bay Area team. While the offensive push wasn't anything out of the ordinary, the highlight of Saturday's game was the play of Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith. Coming back from a shaky start and a lower body injury, Smith stood on his head for three periods, an overtime, and a shootout. Making 33 saves, Mike Smith allowed the Coyotes the chance at their first win of the season against the Sharks and their first of a three game road series.
The Colorado Avalanche weren't as lucky in their last match up. Coming into tonight's contest the Avs have lost two straight on top of an already inconsistent season. Their latest loss being a shutout by the Anaheim Ducks at home. Having not played a game since then, the Avalanche are sitting on close to a week's rest heading into Monday's game. Whether that gap tilts in their favor or not will be seen later tonight, but the time off is the least of their worries. A major hole in the team's offense is the absence of restricted free agent Ryan O'Reilly. In addition to O'Reilly, the Avs are short team captain Gabriel Landeskog and forward Steve Downie.
In the four games the teams played against one another last season the Coyotes were 3-1. Mike was the starter in the 3 wins. Whiole backup tender Jason Labarbera was the starter in the lone loss. For Colorado, Semyon Varlamov started all four games and had a below average save percentage of .875 against the Desert Dogs. The Avs averaged only 1.75 G/G against the Yotes.
Five for Winning:
1. Score First: The Coyotes' play with the lead compared to chasing the game is night and day. Add that with the Avalanche's suffering offense and an early lead could end the night prematurely for the Mile High team.
2. Bring the Heat: The Coyotes are close to the top of the league with 27.2 hits per game. Continuing the physicality with a good forecheck and back check can earn the Coyotes a few good cough ups as the Avs are struggling in both areas of the ice.
3. Shut the Door: The Avs' offense is one of the worst in the league, they rank 25th currently scoring only 2.1 goals per game. While they might not bring the firing squad out in tonight's game, the Coyotes have kept their games close, mix that in with the occasional soft goals finding their way to the back of the net and you easily let this game slip away.
4. Stay Disciplined: The Coyotes did a better job of staying out of the sin bin Saturday, but never the less took four penalties. The Avs may have the worst Power Play in the league (9.1%), but there should be no reason to give them the chance to get better at it.
5. Finish in Regulation: The shorten season isn't the season to let games drag on past regulation. Despite their record, the Avs only sit three spots behind the Coyotes. Leaving them with one point may not be a big deal now, but later down the stretch it could come back and bite the Phoenix team.
Likely Starting Goalies:
Having played his best game this season against the San Jose Sharks. He will look to keep the momentum going in Colorado.
Semyon Varlamov saved 17 of 20 shots faced in the game against the Anaheim Ducks. Expect for Varlamov to stand on his head looking to end the skid.
Players to Watch:
Having to step up with O'Reilly out, Matt Duchene is now tied in team points with P.A. Parenteau. Vocal about his team's recent losses expect to see Duchene come out hard.
The free agent signee leads the Avs in goals with 7.
Chipchura only has one point this season and is looking to get going on the score sheet again, what better game to start than against the Avalanche? In three games against the Avs last season, Chip had 1 goal and 3 assists.
Matthew Lombardi - Upper Body
David Schlemko - Upper Body
Steve Downie - Lower Body
Gabriel Landeskog - Upper Body