The Avalanche will visit the Coyotes on Monday in a MLK day matinee, breaking the streak of the Buffalo Sabres the past few years. The Avalanche, 9th in the West (24-20-2 for 50 points) sit 2 places and three points ahead of the Coyotes. A win for Phoenix gets them in solid position to start a mid January run. Points earned now are worth just as much as those in April. It is easier for the team to get the points against a team they should beat than claw and fight for a point against a higher seed team.
Why should the Coyotes beat Colorado? Three reasons.
- The Avs have 119 goals for and 128 goals against for a -9 differential. The Coyotes are 114-118 and -4. The top teams in each conference are all positive or even in goals against except New Jersey, which is -4, the same as Phoenix.
- Phoenix beat the Avs 4-1 in Denver with Mike Smith in goal. The second time they played, Jason Labarbera was in goal and let in three. Kevin Porter got a gift of a goal. This time, Mike Smith will be in goal for the Coyotes. He won’t let in three. Porter won’t get lucky this game.
- Team defensive speed. Adrian Aucoin is expected to be out for the game with a lower body injury, hence the call up of Chris Summers. Summers has more speed than Adrian that is needed to stop players like Matt Duchene and Paul Stastney. They constantly move without the puck and create a match up problem for most teams. Summers doesn’t have The Closer’s potent slap shot or experience, but I like him being paired with someone like Rusty Klesla. Klesla can cover a lot of mistakes because he doesn’t make them.
Other Key Notes for the game.
- Colorado has three players leading the team with 12 goals. Ryan O’Reilly, Paul Stastney, and Matt Duchene. Milan Hejduk has 11 goals. Stop them and you shut down their offense. The Coyotes are lead by Radim Vrbata with 22 goals who should be starting in the All-Star game. I mean, he is leading the West in goals and is unstoppable in the shoot-out. Ray Whitney has 14 and Captain Shane Doan has an even dozen.
- Peter Mueller has played in two straight games for the Avs and is expected to play Monday. This would add to his three games for the year, or about what he has played total in the past two seasons. With all the talk of concussion like symptoms and players missing games, Mueller has kind of been forgotten, except by Colorado and Coyote fans. He was the number eight pick in the draft and was a fan favorite. Expect to see a “Drooler for Mueller” sign tomorrow.
- J.S. Giguere is expected to be in goal. It will be his first return since his days as the Ducks netminder. JSG is 10-6-1 with Goals Against Average of 2.07 and save percentage of 0.925. His GAA is the lowest of his career as his average is 2.52. He got down to 2.12 for a season with the Ducks and has been as high as 3.14 for the 2009-2010 before being traded from the Ducks to the Maple Leafs. His stellar play was the reason Anaheim won the Stanley Cup in 2007 and why Ilya Bryzgalov was allowed to leave and the Coyotes were able to grab him after that season.
- Other than Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan Wilson, most of the Avs are in the negatives for plus/minus ratings. Daniel Winik is -8, Eric Johnson and Matt Duchene are -11. For the Coyotes, the majority are in the positives. Radim and Ray lead with +11 and +10 respectively. On the negative side, it is led by Derek Morris -11, followed by Shane at -8, but the rest are pretty much positive. For two teams who are very similar and close in the rankings, it is unusual to see such a large difference in plus minus.
- No Martin Hanzal, but the Center position seems to have been solidified with the addition of Mark-Antoine Pouloit and Gilbert Brule. Both were solid in the face off circle and neither afraid to take a shot on goal. Daymond Langlow has been stellar in his play. Playing first line, he has been above 50% in his games at face offs and seems like he doesn’t lose them in the third period.
Game time is 2pm. Tune into XTRA Sports 910 AM, televised by NHLN in Canada. Special treat is the She Wolves skating at the second intermission. The She Wolves is an all girl squad skating out of the Ice Den in Scottsdale. For more information on the She Wolves, go to the She Wolves home page http://www.coyotesice.com/shewolves/.
Prediction. Coyotes 3-1. Vrbata gets another goal, Pyatt and OEL get the others.
See you there.