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Phoenix Coyotes @ Colorado Avalanche preview: hitting the slopes

The Phoenix Coyotes have little time to rest on their laurels as they play the Colorado Avalanche tonight.

Doug Pensinger

After three weeks off, the Phoenix Coyotes resume their season in blisteringly fast fashion. After a tough 3-2 shootout loss last night at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets, the Coyotes take on another Central Division foe tonight in Colorado.

Matchup at a Glance

Phoenix Coyotes Colorado Avalanche
Points 65 (4th Pacific) 79 (3rd Central)
Goals Per Game 2.73 (14th) 2.97 (6th)
Goals Against Per Game 2.83 (21st) 2.64 (15th)
Power Play Percentage 20.4% (8th) 20.1% (9th)
Penalty Kill Percentage 80.2% (24th) 81.4% (T-17th)

Phoenix Coyotes

Although the loss to Winnipeg was disappointing, there are a couple of positives the Coyotes should take out of it. Oliver Ekman-Larsson notched a goal in his first game back, which is good considering he had a rough time in terms of getting on the ice during the Olympics. The faster that can be put behind him, the better.

The other bright spot was that the power play appears to still be a legitimate scoring threat this year. Mike Ribeiro notched an assist on a Martin Hanzal power play goal to tie the game at two in the third period. Timely goal scoring, especially when up a man, is going to be absolutely vital for the Coyotes as they jockey for playoff positioning with the teams around them.

Colorado Avalanche

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Although they ultimately were not able to sustain the incredibly hot start to their season, the Avs appear to be for real under head coach Patrick Roy. They have 79 points, which is just five off the pace set by the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks. Their offense is highly potent, and their young talent like Nathan MacKinnon has adjusted quite nicely to life in the NHL.

Colorado's first game back in action after the Olympics did not go as planned. After going up 4-2 on the Los Angeles Kings Wednesday night, the Avs ultimately coughed up the game, losing 6-4. Expect them to want to redeem themselves tonight against another pesky Pacific Division opponent.

Keys to the Game

  • Score Often Early - A point we have beaten to death here for years, Phoenix is a much better team when they play with a lead. But more importantly, getting a multi-goal lead in the early going will allow players to conserve energy, which is critical on the second half of a road back-to-back.
  • No Mental Mistakes - The Coyotes put themselves behind the eight-ball against Winnipeg. Mike Smith protested an interference call before a whistle was blown, which allowed Blake Wheeler to score. Zbynek Michalek made a horrendous turnover right in front of Mike Smith for the second goal. They can't do that anymore.
  • Don't Pass Up Good Chances - Keith Yandle had the puck on his stick with room to shoot in the overtime against Winnipeg, yet passed it to an unprepared Radim Vrbata instead. The Coyotes need to bury those chances when they get them.

Player to Watch

Radim Vrbata

#17 / Right Wing / Phoenix Coyotes



Jun 13, 1981

G A P +/- PIM
2013 - Radim Vrbata 15 25 40 -5 18

Radim Vrbata has probably developed an immunity to venom given how many times he has been snake-bitten this season. Regardless, he is one of the team's most potent offensive weapons if he can get it going.

Projected Starting Goaltender

Thomas Greiss

#1 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes



Jan 29, 1986

2013 - Thomas Greiss 14 689 7 4 24 2.09 352 328 .932 2

The second half of a road back-to-back is typically Thomas Greiss territory, and Greiss already played a strong game against Colorado in Denver this season. That being said, Mike Smith has had considerable time to rest, so it's possible that he would start both games.

Injury Report

The Phoenix Coyotes are skating with a completely healthy roster.

Colorado has some missing players though. Alex Tanguay (hip surgery) is done for the rest of the season, while winger David Van der Gulik (concussion) is on injured reserve. The Avs are also missing a couple of other players for non-injury reasons; Erik Johnson remains suspended for a slash on New York Islanders forward Frans Nielsen before the break, and Maxime Talbot is awaiting the birth of his child. If that comes today, he will not be in the lineup.

Puck Drop

Tonight's game gets underway at 7 PM Arizona time. You can watch it on Fox Sports Arizona Plus or listen on KMVP 860 AM.