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Arizona Coyotes finally return to the ice versus the Colorado Avalanche

It's been a while, but the Arizona Coyotes are back in action tonight.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Six days is a long break in pretty much any professional sport (except football, of course). The Arizona Coyotes have had to sit on their hands for exactly that long.

At long last, Arizona will get back on the ice for a game when they play the Colorado Avalanche tonight at Gila River Arena. The Coyotes will attempt to get back in the win column for the first time since October 26th.

Matchup at a Glance

Colorado Avalanche Arizona Coyotes
Points 9 (7th Pacific) 11 (4th Pacific)
Goals For 2.75 (14th) 2.73 (T-15th)
Goals Against 3.00 (24th) 2.91 (T-20th)
Power Play 20.4% (13th) 11.4% (T-26th)
Penalty Kill 80.5% (16th) 82.9% (11th)
5v5 Corsi For 41.2% (30th) 47.9% (T-23rd)
PDO 100.2 (13th) 101.5 (T-8th)

View from Colorado

For the Avs perspective, be sure to check out Mile High Hockey

2013-14 seems like such a long time ago.

After the Colorado Avalanche thumbed their noses at the naysayers with a 112 point season and a Central Division championship, the Avalanche have essentially fallen off the mountain; they sit in last place for the second consecutive year in the hyper-competitive Central Division.

Semyon Varlamov has not played particularly well this season (3-5-1, 3.29 GAA and a .890 save percentage), but part of the problem is the Avs can't seem to generate meaningful possession time. Their 41.2 5v5 Corsi For Percentage is the second worst team percentage since Buffalo's miserable 37.5% effort last season.

Clearly though, Colorado has the offensive capability to turn things around; Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog are both underrated at their positions, and Jarome Iginla continues to hum along with six goals and five assists in 11 games.

View from Arizona

Did you know the Coyotes were in the middle of their season right now? Because you'd be forgiven if you forgot over the past week.

The Coyotes kick off a short two game homestand with the Avs and Rangers tonight after waiting six days to avenge their 4-3 loss to Vancouver on October 30th. In that game, Mike Smith did not make it to the end of the first period, and Anders Lindback ultimately cleaned up the game (and took the loss).

Will Dave Tippett go back to Smith tonight? It seems likely, given Tippett has done with his starter 75-80% of the time during his tenure in Arizona. And Smith is almost certainly looking forward to the prospect of rebounding from a couple of rough games between Boston and Vancouver, where he surrendered a total of nine goals.

But unlike Coyotes teams of old, a bad night from the starting goaltender is not necessarily a guaranteed loss. The Coyotes came to within a goal of tying the game against Vancouver thanks in large part to Max Domi and Tobias Rieder. The Coyotes can light up the scoreboard on occasion this season, so it will be interesting to see how they fare against a team that tends to give up the puck a lot.

Keys to the Game

  • Take Advantage of Zone Time - Colorado is not a team that holds onto the puck for long stretches of time. If Arizona can both keep the puck and direct pucks to the net, they'll hem Colorado in their end for longer, and get more scoring chances as a result.
  • Neutral Zone Control - The Avalanche have some speedy players between Landeskog, MacKinnon, and Matt Duchene. If Arizona can clog up the middle of the ice, it will be harder for Colorado to take advantage.
  • Penalty Differential - Even if the Coyotes continue to struggle on the power play, winning the penalty battle by staying disciplined and avoiding retaliatory penalties will really help keep the pressure off the Coyotes' goaltender.

Player to Watch

Tyson Barrie is a very under-appreciated puck moving defenseman in the image of Keith Yandle. He has seven assists on the season, so look for him to be trying to set up Colorado's play-makers.

Antoine Vermette was finally able to bust his point drought with two assists on Friday versus Vancouver. Should be be able to play tonight, the Coyotes need him to continue to produce.

Injury Report

Colorado is missing Jesse Winchester for the foreseeable future with a concussion, though he hasn't played since the 2014-15 preseason. John Mitchell is questionable for tonight's game with an oblique injury.

The Coyotes are expected to get Martin Hanzal back after he missed two and a half games for the Coyotes. Joe Vitale remains on injured reserve with an orbital bone fracture, while Stefan Elliott and Antoine Vermette are considered questionable for tonight's contest.

Puck Drop

Game time is at 7 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on ESPN 620 AM.