The Colorado Avalanche will be playing a game with fans in the stands for the first time in 2020-21 as the club plays at the Arizona Coyotes tonight.
Arizona has been allowed to have around 3,000 fans at home games so far this season at Gila River Arena, which will make it quite a different setting than what the Avalanche and Coyotes experienced in their last meeting during the postseason bubble in Edmonton, Alberta. This will be the two teams' first contest against one another since their fan-less series in the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs that Colorado won in five games.
The Coyotes have won two in a row after sweeping their series against the Anaheim Ducks earlier this week, while the Avalanche has lost its last two contests, the first time this year it has dropped consecutive games.
"We got to go out there and we got to do what we've had success doing, which was playing in the offensive zone a lot of the time," said Colorado defenseman Jacob MacDonald. "When we're able to do that, we have a lot of success. We go out there and we play well and can score goals, obviously everybody knows that about us as a team."
MacDonald, who is celebrating his 28th birthday today, will reenter game action for the Avs after missing the past three contests. He'll replace rookie Conor Timmins on the back end.
Hunter Miska will face his former team this evening, as the goaltender will make his third start of the season. Miska, who stopped 25 shots in a win on Wednesday with the AHL Colorado Eagles, made his NHL debut in a relief appearance with the Coyotes on Nov. 13, 2018 at Detroit.
Colorado is preparing to start its third of now eight back-to-back sets this season and with the team playing at least every other night for the remainder of the season, this weekend was a good time to give usual starter Philipp Grubauer a game off. Grubauer had played in a season-high six straight contests and ranks tied for third in the league with nine victories.
"I think it is just time to give him some rest and this is the best way to do it," said head coach Jared Bednar of Grubauer. "Give him a few days off here and then he'll be ready for us the rest of the trip."
Forward Brandon Saad will also reenter the lineup after missing his first game with Colorado on Wednesday due to the birth of his and his wife's second child.
Tonight's outing in Arizona was supposed to be the third meeting of the year between the Avalanche and Coyotes, but due to COVID-19 protocol the clubs' previous two games on Feb. 9 and 11 at Ball Arena were postponed and rescheduled for March 31 and April 12.
That leads to a busy stretch for the Avs, who will play their next six games in nine days and their remaining 43 regular-season contests in a span of 78 days. Colorado closes its road trip on Monday and Wednesday at the San Jose Sharks before hosting the Anaheim Ducks in a back-to-back next weekend.
View: Avalanche Projected Lineup vs. Coyotes
Andre Burakovsky will skate in his 400th career NHL contest this evening.
"A lot of fun being in the league now for 400 games, it feels like yesterday I came to Washington," Burakovsky said of the milestone. "So time is flying when you're having fun. I've been playing with a lot of great players, and it's been a pleasure. It's been a lot of fun, and hopefully I got a couple more years."
Drafted in the first round at No. 23 overall in 2013 by the Washington Capitals, Burakovsky made his NHL debut with the Caps on Oct. 9, 2014 and won the 2018 Stanley Cup with the team. Colorado traded for the left wing on June 28, 2019, and Burakovsky went to set new career highs in goals (20), assists (25) and points (45) in only 58 games in his first season with his new club in 2019-20.
He has three goals and five assists in 13 contests this year and is tied for third on the Avs with two power-play goals.
Colorado begins a four-game road trip, which is tied for the longest and one of five the team presently has scheduled this season.
The Avalanche is starting its third of eight back-to-back sets it will now play this season. The club is 1-1-0 in the first game and 1-0-1 on the second night.
This is the first season that Colorado and Arizona have ever shared the same division. The teams are expected to be division foes again following this season as well when the Coyotes move to the Central Division full time with the Avs when the Seattle Kraken enter the league as an expansion franchise in the Pacific Division.
Cale Makar registered his 50th career assist on Wednesday against Minnesota, requiring the fifth-fewest games (71) among defensemen in NHL history to collect 50 regular-season helpers.
Head coach Jared Bednar on the Avalanche's younger defensemen:
"They've played some real good games. We've seen them be exceptional and we've seen them be poor, and we've seen them everywhere in between. It's just finding the consistency. But what I like about those guys and the video sessions is once we show them something, they're trying to implement it in their game. Sometimes it's just little confidence issues, sometimes they're just doing too much, sometimes it's identifying that they have to do a little more and have a little more grit and determination in their game, just like the rest of our team."
Defenseman Jacob MacDonald on staying sharp between games played:
"First thing is it's just routine. You get practices every day if you're not playing, so that keeps your body and mind fresh. At the same time, putting all the effort into that practice or pregame skate like today and going out and playing a game. Just having that routine keeps you mentally and physically prepared."