Coyotes brace for stern test from Avalanche

NHL Hockey

The Arizona Coyotes had a chance to move into a playoff spot when they went to Nevada over the weekend.

Two disappointing losses to the Vegas Golden Knights left Arizona on the outside of the postseason picture with 14 games left. The push doesn’t get easier on Monday when the Coyotes visit the Colorado Avalanche in Denver.

While Arizona dropped a 1-0 decision to Vegas on Sunday, the Avalanche skated to a 4-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks for their 15th win in their past 18 games (15-1-2).

The Coyotes are in a bit of desperation mode, and playing the team occupying first place in the West Division isn’t making things easier for them. Arizona owns a 2-4-1 record in the first seven meetings with Colorado, and the most recent matchup between the teams in Denver is one the Coyotes would rather forget.

The Avalanche held a 5-1 lead in the first period of that game on March 31. Arizona answered with two straight goals to halve the deficit, only to see Colorado erupt for four more.

The Coyotes recovered quickly from that loss to win three in a row, but two straight losses versus Vegas has them reeling again. Coach Rick Tocchet expressed disappointment with the effort in Friday’s 7-4 loss to the Golden Knights and it seemed to help Sunday, albeit in defeat.

The Coyotes could be without defenseman Jordan Gross for Monday’s game. He left Sunday’s contest with a lower-body injury after a big hit from Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves.

“I’m not going to (comment),” Tocchet said after the game. “We saw it, we all know. You don’t have to be a hockey guy to know.”

Colorado has been looking for help with its goaltending group, and the team addressed that when general manager Joe Sakic pulled off another trade ahead of the deadline. The Avalanche acquired former nemesis Devan Dubnyk from San Jose on Saturday for defenseman Greg Pateryn and a fifth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.

Dubnyk is expected to be Philipp Grubauer’s backup down the stretch and into the playoffs.

The trade comes a few weeks after the Avalanche reached out to Buffalo and acquired Jonas Johansson, who posted back-to-back wins over the Ducks this weekend. His backup Sunday was Dubnyk, who used a car service to travel from San Jose to join the team in Anaheim in time for Sunday’s game.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for me, obviously, one of the best teams in the league,” Dubnyk said Sunday after reporting to the Avalanche. “I’ve been on the other side of the firepower many times, so it’s nice to be on the right side.”

Colorado also traded for defenseman Patrik Nemeth last week. He is joining the team in Denver and could be available Monday night.

Grubauer has been a workhorse this season but got some well-deserved rest for the stretch run. Dubnyk, a 12-year veteran, had some scraps with the Avalanche when he was with Minnesota, including a memorable dustup with Gabriel Landeskog on Nov. 6, 2016.

Landeskog, Colorado’s captain, said that bad blood is in the past, and Dubnyk agreed.

“It’s been good ever since we got a chance to meet each other at the (2019) All-Star Game,” Dubnyk said. “He texted me (Saturday) and that was one of the first things that was brought up, that little scuffle there.”

–Field Level Media

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