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Arizona Coyotes get another shot at the Colorado Avalanche

The Coyotes will attempt to play better than their last disastrous encounter with the Avs.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Coyotes may not be scoring very often, but it isn't due to lack of trying. They'll get a chance to put some points on the board while redeeming their last performance when they play the Colorado Avalanche tonight at Gila River Arena.

Matchup at a Glance

Colorado Avalanche Arizona Coyotes
Points 75 (6th Central) 50 (7th Pacific)
Goals For 2.54 (23rd) 2.00 (29th)
Goals Against 2.74 (T-21st) 3.23 (T-27th)
Power Play 13.8% (29th) 20.6% (7th)
Penalty Kill 84.3% (7th) 78.3% (26th)
5v5 SAT 43.6% (29th) 48.9%
SpSV% 101.3 (5th) 96.7 (29th)

View from Colorado

The fancy-stats clubhouse favorite to regress this season after last year's playoff run, the Colorado Avalanche, with all things considered, have done a very good job replicating last season's formula. Their combined shooting and save percentage is 101.3, just 0.5 lower than last year when the Avs won the Central Division. Semyon Varlamov is having a season statistically comparable to his Vezina runner-up caliber one last year. So what gives?

Remarkably, Colorado's possession stats have gotten worse than they were last season. They take 43.6% of all shot attempts at 5v5 in a game this year, compared to 46.9% last year. That means two things: 1) Their goaltenders typically have to do more work any given night. and 2) they don't tend to have meaningful control of the puck for large stretches during the game.

Both of those facts ultimately translate into the 2014-15 Avalanche: a team that remains in playoff contention (albeit just barely) thanks to above average goaltending, but with systemic underlying issues that preclude them from taking that next step. Having Jarome Iginla be your leading scorer on an offense that features Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Ryan O'Reilly is not exactly an indicator of success either. Several young forwards are having down years for the Avs, and that will need to change if they want to return to the playoffs next season.

View from Arizona

As anemic as the Arizona Coyotes' offense has been over the past few weeks, they still have yet to top their disastrous performance against the Colorado Avalanche back in February. In that game, the Coyotes went a full 24:03 without taking a single shot on net. For a team that struggles to score, not even creating the opportunity to score is unacceptable.

Ultimately, that inability to put the puck in the net has sent Arizona down to dead last in the Western Conference, behind even the lowly Edmonton Oilers. While that may be good for draft positioning going into the McEichel draft, it makes for difficult-to-watch hockey.

That being said, it's hard to look at the defensive efforts Arizona has maintained over the past couple of weeks and not see improvement. Younger defensemen like Connor Murphy and Brandon Gormley appear to have figured out how to play the way Dave Tippett wants them to. As a result, Arizona has given up only 11 goals over their past five games. That's a good sign heading into next season.

Keys to the Game

  • Shoot - Colorado has a hard time holding onto the puck. The Coyotes need to generate possession and force the Avs' netminder to make saves.
  • Net-front Presence - The lone goal the Coyotes scored against Cory Schneider and the New Jersey Devils came courtesy of a Shane Doan deflection. Those sort of plays are how scrappy teams score goals.
  • Second and Third Chances - The Coyotes need to generate rebound opportunities of their own while minimizing Colorado's ability to do the same. That means forwards need to be aggressive around the faceoff circles in the offensive zone, and defensemen need to keep the slot clear in the defensive zone.

Who's Hot

For the Avs, Tyson Barrie has a goal and five assists in his last five games. He's the kind of puck moving defenseman that can greatly improve an offense.

Mike Smith has a .943 save percentage in his past five appearances. He's done a great job improving his game over the past few weeks.

Injury Report

The Avalanche have multiple players sidelined for the rest of the year. Jesse Winchester, Ryan Wilson, and Jamie McGinn are all out for the season, while Patrick Bordeleau and Nathan MacKinnon are not expected back any time soon. Erik Johnson and Borna Rendulic are expected to finish the regular season, but are still on IR for now.

Both Martin Hanzal and Mikkel Boedker have been shut down for the season by the Coyotes. The rest of the roster is fully healthy.

Puck Drop

Tonight's game begins at 7 PM Arizona time. You can see the game on Fox Sports Arizona Plus or listen on ESPN 620 AM.