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Colorado Avalanche @ Phoenix Coyotes Preview: Fresh Powder

How will the Coyotes' explosive offense match up against some of the League's best goaltending?

Christian Petersen

Oh, the Phoenix Coyotes are still playing hockey?

It certainly feels like the offseason with a four day break stuck right in the middle of the regular season, but the Coyotes took full advantage of the time off to lick their wounds and find what needs fixing. They will get a good chance to show how productive their time off has been when they play the Colorado Avalanche at Arena tonight.

Teams At a Glance

Colorado Avalanche Phoenix Coyotes
Points 30 (4th Central) 31 (3rd Pacific)
Goals Per Game 3.20 (5th) 3.29 (4th)
Goals Against Per Game 2.10 (3rd) 3.05 (24th)
Power Play Percentage 19.0% (15th) 22.4% (6th)
Penalty Kill Percentage 84.1% (10th) 78.5% (24th)

Colorado Avalanche

For more on the Avalanche, check out FFH's sister blog, Mile High Hockey.

There are very few people who anticipated Colorado being in the position they are now. After drafting first overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the Avs rode Nathan MacKinnon and new head coach Patrick Roy all the way up to the top of the League standings to start the season.

In recent games however, it's been more slow going. Before beating the Chicago Blackhawks 5-1 Tuesday night, the Avs had dropped games to the Carolina Hurricanes, St. Louis Blues, and the lowly Florida Panthers. There is some reason to believe there are cracks in the dam.

The team's overall Fenwick & Corsi ratings are below 50%, which means on average the Avalanche are giving up more shot attempts than they're taking. As a metric for puck possession, this suggests that Colorado has the puck less often in games, which typically means the opponent has more chances on net, which typically leads to more goals.

Beyond Fenwick & Corsi, the Colorado Avalanche lead the league in PDO, which is shooting percentage (the percentage of shots that result in goals) + save percentage, with a solid 105.3. PDO tends to regress heavily towards the mean of 100, which means as of right now the Avs are getting quite a bit of puck luck. Both of these stats might explain why the Avs dropped three in a row last week: they're playing well, but not President's Trophy well.

Phoenix Coyotes

The bad news for Coyotes fans is that while Colorado's advanced stats suggest that regression may be on the horizon, Phoenix isn't in a much better spot. The Coyotes' Corsi & Fenwick averages are also below 50%, with the worse news being that their numbers have tanked substantially from the beginning of the season. The only time in the past ten games that the Coyotes have outchanced their opponent when the score was close (within one goal), was November 5th against the Canucks. In the other nine, the Coyotes have been significantly outchanced in pressure situations.

Coyotes fans should take solace in the fact that their banged up defensive corps appears to be healing up. After a game in which Keith Yandle was the longest tenured defenseman on the Coyotes roster, Phoenix appears to be getting back Derek Morris and Rostislav Klesla. Their presence on the back end will hopefully lead to fewer scoring chances and less work for Mike Smith.

Keys to the Game

  • Shake the Rust - The Coyotes have had a lot of time off, and a lot of roster mainstays missed significant time with injuries even before the break. They need to be ready to play from the opening faceoff.
  • Limit Scoring Chances - Colorado has a lot of potent offensive weapons, and if their goaltending plays as well as it has all season it may be hard to climb back from a big deficit.
  • Know Your Role - That means guys who are supposed to score like Radim Vrbata and Mikkel Boedker need to put the puck in the net, and guys like Mike Ribeiro, Keith Yandle, and Martin Hanzal need to find ways to set them up.

Players to Watch

Nathan MacKinnon

#29 / Center / Colorado Avalanche



Sep 01, 1995

G A P +/- PIM
2013 - Nathan MacKinnon 3 9 12 4 6

He may not be having the electrifying season that someone like Tomas Hertl is having, but the 1st overall pick in the 2013 Entry Draft is off to a good start to his career.

Derek Morris

#53 / Defenseman / Phoenix Coyotes



Aug 24, 1978

G A P +/- PIM
2013 - Derek Morris 4 6 10 2 4

The Coyotes have gotten a surprising amount of offense from Morris this year, but where he really is need is on the back end. The Coyotes have got to clamp down on the amount of goals they surrender if they want to stay at the top of the Western Conference.

Projected Starting Goaltenders

Semyon Varlamov

#1 / Goalie / Colorado Avalanche



Apr 27, 1988

2013 - Semyon Varlamov 15 850 10 5 31 2.19 450 419 .931 0

After a couple of shaky seasons backstopping the Avs, Semyon Varlamov appears to have settled in quite nicely with the club. Between him and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the Avs really can't go wrong in goal this season.

Mike Smith

#41 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes



Mar 22, 1982

2013 - Mike Smith 19 1107 12 3 53 2.87 637 584 .917 0

This should surprise absolutely nobody.

Injury Report

Colorado will be without a few regulars tonight. Matt Duchene (oblique) is out indefinitely since being injured in the game against Florida. Both Ryan Wilson (back), and Alex Tanguay (knee) are on injured reserve.

The Coyotes will likely not have the services of Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) and Zbynek Michalek (lower body) for tonight's game.

Puck Drop

The game begins tonight at 7 P.M. Arizona time at Arena in Glendale. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen to the game on 620 AM.

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