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Coyotes Game 36 Preview: The road trip begins

The Coyotes are facing off against one of the toughest opponents in the division to start their most important road trip of the season.

Colorado Avalanche v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images

Game Preview

Today, the Arizona Coyotes begin their most important road trip of the season. The futures of the players, coaching staff, and front office staff may depend on what happens during that road trip.

But the Coyotes can’t worry too much about that. Because while the next seven games are going to have a massive impact, they can’t afford to take their focus off tonight’s opponents.

The Coyotes have done surprisingly well as of late. Arizona has won their past three games, including shutting out the San Jose Sharks last Saturday 4-0. Arizona seems to know what they are doing as of late, and they need to keep up that momentum.

That isn’t to say the Avalanche have been struggling because they definitely haven’t. Since falling 5-4 in the shootout, the Avalanche have split a pair of games against the Vegas Golden Knights and beat the Anaheim Ducks.

Neither result is unexpected. The one game that Colorado lost was a 3-2 overtime loss against the Golden Knights, with their win against the Ducks being a 5-2 blowout.

If the Coyotes want to win tonight, they probably do not want a repeat of their last game against the Avalanche. They walked away with two points, but it isn’t a recipe for repeated success.

If nothing else, that game showed why you shouldn’t sleep on the Avalanche.

The Coyotes managed to go up 2-0 with early goals from defensemen Jakob Chychrun and Alex Goligoski. But Gabriel Landeskog cut the Coyotes’ lead in half with a power play goal late in the first, and Mikko Rantanen tied it up four minutes later.

If the Coyotes can get a lead again, they need to find a way to stay disciplined. The Avalanche are so skilled, and giving them a power play is like playing with fire and can prove to be a literal game-changer.

Colorado would score twice more to give themselves a commanding 4-2 lead. Luckily, the Coyotes were able to mount a comeback in the final 15 minutes of the game. Both Lawson Crouse and Phil Kessel scored in the third period, tying the game and forcing a shootout. All three Coyotes’ players would score in the shootout, giving the Coyotes the win.

It was great to see the Coyotes come back from a 4-2 deficit, especially after seeing the Coyotes struggle to score the third goal. But those struggles show why the Coyotes would be better off finishing things quickly and not trying to get things going in the final period of the game.

If the Coyotes are ready, they could extend their win-streak and go into this massive road trip with momentum. Let’s hope they’re ready.

Players to Watch

Arizona: Phil Kessel - Kessel had a hat-trick against the Anaheim Ducks and a goal in the Coyotes' last game against the Avalanche. The team needs some consistent offense, and if Kessel is getting hot he could definitely help with that.

Colorado: Mikko Rantanen - Rantanen hit the 20-goal mark in the Avalanche's last game against the Ducks and has already scored 3 goals against the Coyotes this season.

Injuries

Arizona: Johan Larsson (questionable, head), Tyler Pitlick (lower body), Antti Raanta (undisclosed), Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body), Darcy Kuemper (lower body)

Colorado: Bowen Byram (head), Matt Calvert (undisclosed), Conor Timmins (upper body), Dennis Gilbert (face), Erik Johnson (upper body), Pavel Francouz (lower body)

Puck Drop

Tonight's game will be at 6:30 pm Arizona time and will air on Bally Sports Arizona and Fox Sports 910 AM.