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Arizona Coyotes return home to face Colorado Avalanche

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After a trying six-game road trip, the Coyotes are finally back in Arizona.

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Arizona Coyotes Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Home has probably never looked so good for the Arizona Coyotes.

After a brutal road trip that ended in admittedly satisfying fashion, the Coyotes finally return to Gila River Arena tonight. They will welcome the Colorado Avalanche tonight in an early evening matchup.

View from Colorado

For the perspective from Colorado, check out Mile High Hockey

The Avalanche had a Wayne Gretzky moment this offseason, when head coach Patrick Roy unexpectedly quit in August. It was perhaps the most Patrick Roy thing ever.

It also ended up working out quite well for the Avs, who were able to hire Jared Bednar on relatively short notice. Bednar had previously won championships in the ECHL in 2008 and in the AHL in 2016, so he came to Colorado with an impressive pedigree.

It’s been an up-and-down beginning to Colorado’s season. The Avs are currently 3-3-0, and have lost two straight after jumping out to a 3-1-0 start. They are also coming off of a rough 1-0 home loss to the Winnipeg Jets last night, so expect them to jump out of the gate looking for a strong start tonight.

View from Arizona

The good news is that the Coyotes will never have a road stretch that long for the rest of the season. Hopefully they won’t have results like that ever again either.

A 1-5-0 road trip to start the year is never good; Arizona now sits in last place in the Pacific Division with a significant amount of work to do to climb back up to respectability. It’s goaltending did not look sharp after the loss of Mike Smith, and the defense could only charitably be described as porous, with 27 goals allowed in their six road games.

But there are some silver linings as well. All five of their losses were against Eastern Conference opponents, so the Coyotes were not helping their competitors for playoff spots with regulation losses. And the offense managed to score 18 goals on the trip. Granted, 18 is less than 27, but with better defense and goaltending three goals a game should be enough to win more games than the Coyotes will lose.

So Arizona will have a tough test tonight as they open their Western Conference schedule. Hopefully they can build on their 5-4 regulation victory over the Philadelphia Flyers to stitch together some winning hockey.

Three Questions

  1. Can the Coyotes cut down the penalties? - Arizona took eight minor penalties against the Flyers, which they simply can’t afford to keep doing. Will the Coyotes be more disciplined tonight?
  2. Can Arizona exploit line matchups? - Arizona will finally have the last change again, which should allow Dave Tippett to get the right personnel out against the Avs for key situations. Can the Coyotes take advantage?
  3. Will Dylan Strome make his home debut? - The Coyotes are taking their time with Dylan Strome. He did not play in the season opener, which means he also has not played a regular season game at Gila River Arena. Will tonight be the night?

Players to Watch

Colorado - Tyson Barrie - After numerous trade rumors and thinkpieces, Barrie opted to stay with the Avalanche for another four years. He’s a very mobile puck-moving defenseman who should remain a big part of Colorado’s offensive attack.

Arizona - Oliver Ekman-Larsson - OEL has five points on the season. All five are goals. He had three in Arizona’s last two games, so he is white-hot at the moment.

Injury Report

Colorado may be without the services of Fedor Tyutin tonight, but is otherwise expected to be healthy.

Mike Smith remains on injured reserve with an apparent knee injury, while Michael Stone is questionable after suffering an injury against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.

Puck Drop

Tonight’s game gets underway at 6:00 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on ESPN 620 AM.