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Coyotes looking to bounce back in Denver

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After brawling their way through their pre-holiday matchup, the Coyotes jog into Denver hoping to even the score.

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

Zac Rinaldo did a thing. Some think it was a natural reaction after seeing a player come at you after a hit on a star. Some think it was an uncalled for sucker punch.

Either way, Arizona, and Colorado have some bad blood now.

And with Rinaldo facing a 5+ game suspension for his actions based on the offer for an in-person hearing by the Dept. of Player Safety, it’s safe to say that the matchup Wednesday will have a different tone than the one the two teams left last weekend.

Bitter yes, but without the chief aggravator.

View From Colorado

Colorado is very much improved from the team we knew them as last season.

They’re 11th in goals for, 21st in goals against and floating above .500 at the moment. Compared to 30th in pretty much all categories from last season, that isn’t anything to ignore.

But at this moment, things aren’t super healthy. Top defenseman Tyson Barrie broke his hand last weekend in Glendale and is likely looking at a couple months on the shelf. Vladislav Kamenev, an asset from Nashville in the Duchene trade, broke his arm shortly after being acquired and is out as well.

Given that defense is already Colorado’s weakness, losing Barrie will sting and it may be the break the Coyotes need.

View From Arizona

Rinaldo is going to be gone for a little while, leading the Coyotes to recall ‘the Law’.

Lawson Crouse, in his 7 games with the NHL club so far, has no point and is a -3, but has fared better in Tucson, as the Roadrunners have been running hot all season.

Outside of Crouse, few Coyotes have been stirring the eyes of fans or coaches. Clayton Keller has begun to break out of his early December slouch, racking up 6 points over the last 5 games while Derek Stepan scored two short-handed goals against Colorado last week after struggling.

Antti Raanta, up until the Avs game, has been good as well. But his streakiness has left a hot-cold feeling in fans stomachs before every game, not knowing which goaltender they’re going to get to see.

Three Questions

Will there be further retribution?

Zac Rinaldo, for better or worse, has made some new enemies and while he isn’t gonna be out there to face them. his teammates certainly will. Is Colorado going to let it be dead since Rinaldo isn’t there, or will there be more fireworks in his stead?

Will a Coyotes playmaker please stand up?

The Coyotes can not seem to get any offense to click together. They can’t continuously put together any depth scoring, and the top scoring is rather intermittent. Would anyone, please, stand up and take control of a game like they were drafted to?

How flexible can Colorado’s defense be without breaking?

With Barrie absent, Colorado is going to need Nikita Zadorov, Samuel Girard and Erik Johnson to step up. The big question is if those three will be enough to stop a streaky Coyotes team if they smell blood.

Players to Watch

Colorado: D Patrick Nemeth - Nemeth was acquired over the offseason by Colorado and is on track to produce at the highest level in his career. With Tyson Barrie absent for some time, it will be interesting to see if Nemeth takes an even bigger step forward starting Wednesday night vs the Coyotes.

Arizona: F Clayton Keller - Keller is riding a point streak, and it’s important that in spite of the consistent losing, he continues to fulfill his destiny. The first part of a back-to-back following a holiday will be a good litmus test for him to see if he can stay focused after a break.

Injury Report

Colorado: D Tyson Barrie (Hand- Indefinitely), D Sergei Bolkov (Shoulder-IR), F Vladislav Kamenev (Arm-IR)

Arizona: D Niklas Hjalmarsson (Concussion- Indefinitely), F Brad Richardson (UBI- Day to Day)

Puck Drop

The puck drops at 7pm in Denver on Fox Sports Arizona/Fox Sports Go and on 98.7 FM for radio.