The Arizona Coyotes wrapped up a good homestand with two wins against San Jose, moving into playoff contention as the season progresses.
How they fare over the next two weeks will determine whether they’re still in the postseason hunt. Starting Wednesday night at the Colorado Avalanche, the Coyotes play nine straight road games that will bolster their playoff chances or tank them.
Starting in Denver isn’t the easiest way to launch a road trip. Colorado has gone 9-0-2 in its last 11 games, most of those at home, to solidify its place near the top of the West Division.
However, Arizona has played the Avalanche tough this season. The Coyotes are 2-3-1 against Colorado and went 1-0-1 in their last trip to Denver.
They can build on that confidence Wednesday night and get the road trip started on a positive note.
“Sometimes those long trips define your season,” said veteran Phil Kessel, who had a hat trick in Saturday night’s win over the Sharks. “We”ve got to battle through it.”
Having three days off might help, too. Arizona hasn’t played since Saturday and will now play nine games in 15 days. The Coyotes won’t get more than two days off the rest of the way and play four back-to-back sets over the final 21 games.
The Avalanche have enjoyed a home-heavy schedule over the last few weeks. They have played 12 of their last 14 games in Denver and have three more, including Wednesday night, before hitting the road where they will play 14 of their final 19 games.
Colorado has gotten healthy over the last few weeks and may get defenseman Bo Byram back for two games against St. Louis this weekend. He skated Tuesday but won’t play against Arizona. He will miss his third straight game while being in the concussion protocol.
The Avalanche have been dominant for long stretches during their 11-game points streak, especially in shots on goal. Six times during those 11 games they’ve had 41 or more shots on goals, with two of those coming against the Coyotes. Colorado has put 166 shots on goal in the last four games against Arizona.
The attempts aren’t only coming from the top lines; the third and fourth lines are getting opportunities and the defensive corps is also joining in. In the 5-2 win over Anaheim on Monday night the bottom six forwards had three goals.
Tyson Jost, who centers the third line, had a goal as well as one of his wingers, Valeri Nichushkin.
“We’re using our speed, Val is using his size, (Joonas Donskoi) is using his skill,” Jost said. “We’re getting pucks down low and really cycling; that’s part of our identity and we’re playing to our identity now. It’s fun hockey right now.”
The Coyotes won the last matchup between the teams, 5-4 in a shootout, in Jonas Johansson’s debut in net for the Avalanche. He may get the start Wednesday but Arizona will likely face Philipp Grubauer, who got his 100th career win on Monday night.
–Field Level Media