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Avalanche look for bounce-back effort vs. Coyotes

by Sean McCullen

COYOTES (27-21-11) at AVALANCHE (37-17-5)


Last 10: Phoenix 4-4-2; Colorado 6-4-0

Season series: This is the third and final game between the Phoenix Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche. They split the first two, with the Avalanche winning at Phoenix on Nov. 21 and the Coyotes winning in Denver on Dec. 10.

Big story: Colorado rookie center Nathan MacKinnon comes into the game on a nine-game point streak -- a streak that has him running away with the Calder Trophy. The 18-year-old leads all rookies in goals (22), assists (23) and points (45); Tyler Johnson of the Tampa Bay Lightning is second in goals (17) and points (37), and Torey Krug of the Boston Bruins is second in assists (22).

MacKinnon has seven goals and 16 assists in his past 12 games.

Team Scope:

Coyotes: Phoenix lost 3-2 in a shootout at the Winnipeg Jets in each team's first game back from the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The Coyotes trail the Dallas Stars by one point for the second of two wild-card spots in the Western Conference. Coach Dave Tippett recognizes it's going to be a dogfight to get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"Coming out of the break, we wanted to make sure that we came out with energy," Tippett said. "For the most part, I didn't mind our game."

"There was lots of urgency and intensity," Tippett added when asked about his team's play against the Jets. "There were some turnovers I didn't like in the game; those are things that we have to continue to clean up. But the will we played with and the desperation, that's going to have to be there every night."

The Coyotes return to Arena for a three-game homestand after playing in Denver.

Avalanche: Colorado surrendered four unanswered goals Wednesday in a 6-4 loss to the Los Angeles Kings at Pepsi Center in its first game after the Olympic break.

"I don't think that [the Kings] did anything different. But I think that we started getting a little … making bad decisions with the puck and even without the puck. In the D zone, we kind of got hemmed in a little bit and didn't box out," captain Gabriel Landeskog said. "You know, [the Kings are] a good team, but it definitely feels like we should have won this one."

Semyon Varlamov is expected back in goal for the Avalanche after backing up Jean-Sebastien Giguere against the Kings.

Colorado will be without defenseman Erik Johnson, but center Maxime Talbot is likely to return after missing the game Wednesday so he could be with his fiancée for the birth of their child, according to coach Patrick Roy. Johnson will serve the second of his two-game suspension for slashing the New York Islanders' Frans Nielsen on Feb. 8.

The Avalanche announced Thursday they have signed Marc-Andre Cliche to a two-year contract extension through the 2015-16 season. The deal reportedly will pay the 26-year-old center, who leads Colorado with 2:35 of shorthanded ice time per game, a salary of $700,000 per season.

Who's hot: Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata has a point in four of five games. He has three goals and an assist in that span. … Avalanche center Matt Duchene has four points (two goals) his past two games and 11 points in his past 10.

Injury report: Phoenix reports a healthy lineup. … Colorado left wing Alex Tanguay (hip) is out for the season following surgery last Friday. Center John Mitchell (groin) is day-to-day, and Roy expects him to play. Forward David Van Der Gulik (head) may be close to being activated off injured reserve, according to the Denver Post.

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