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Avalanche look for strong start after break vs. Coyotes

by Rick Sadowski / NHL.com

COYOTES (16-15-3) at AVALANCHE (17-17-1)

TV: FS-A, ALT2

DENVER -- Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said he's curious to see how his players perform in the first period Sunday against the Arizona Coyotes at Pepsi Center in their first game in six days.

The Avalanche practiced Saturday following the end of the holiday break but haven't played since a 7-4 loss Monday to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"We did a lot of rush plays and flow drills [Saturday], and at the end we started to click more," Roy said. "This morning I thought we were moving the puck better. I'm confident that we will have a good start."

Roy said the Coyotes could have an early advantage because they played Saturday, a 4-3 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings.

"The worst thing you can do is to think that because they played last night it will be easier for us," he said. "It's an advantage for them in the first period. They had the game last night, they're on the road, they're going to be very focused for the start of the game."

The Avalanche have won eight of their past 11 games (8-3-0) and are five points behind the Nashville Predators for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.

The Coyotes are coming off a 3-1-2 homestand after losing their previous five games. They're also five points behind the Predators and one point behind the third-place San Jose Sharks in the Pacific Division.

"They're like us, they're looking for points, they want to make the playoffs and they're right there," Roy said. "I think it's important that we have a good start and that we don't look at their schedule."

Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson said that he and his teammates should be fine after getting in two good practices.

"I think it's more mental than anything just to get your mind back into it," he said. "You can't ease back into the schedule. You have to come back and play hard like you did before. We need the points so bad right now and we have to be sharp right off the bat."

The Coyotes didn't have a morning skate, but coach Dave Tippett told the Arizona Republic that goalie Anders Lindback would start against the Avalanche. Lindback last played Dec. 17 when he allowed four goals on 10 shots in a 7-5 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Here are the projected lineups:

COYOTES

Tobias Rieder - Antoine Vermette - Mikkel Boedker

Max Domi - Viktor Tikhonov - Anthony Duclair

Kyle Chipchura - Brad Richardson - Shane Doan

Jordan Martinook - Steve Downie

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Connor Murphy

Klas Dahlbeck - Stefan Elliott

Nicklas Grossman - Michael Stone

Zbynek Michalek

Anders Lindback

Louis Domingue

Injured: Boyd Gordon (head), Martin Hanzal (lower body), Mike Smith (abdominal surgery), Joe Vitale (fractured orbital bone)

Scratched: John Scott

AVALANCHE

Gabriel Landeskog - John Mitchell - Matt Duchene

Alex Tanguay - Nathan MacKinnon - Jarome Iginla

Andreas Martinsen - Carl Soderberg - Blake Comeau

Cody McLeod - Mikhail Grigorenko - Jack Skille

Francois Beauchemin - Erik Johnson

Nick Holden - Tyson Barrie

Brandon Gormley - Zach Redmond

Semyon Varlamov

Calvin Pickard

Injured: Reto Berra (ankle), Ben Street (chest), Brad Stuart (back), Jesse Winchester (head)

Scratched: Nate Guenin, Chris Wagner

Status report: The Coyotes are shorthanded at center without Hanzal and Gordon, who was injured Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings. Tippett told the Arizona Republic that no one would be recalled from Springfield of the American Hockey League. … Downie is expected to play after being scratched against the Kings when the Coyotes played seven defensemen. ... Stuart is practicing with the Avalanche while wearing a non-contact jersey but no date has been set for his return. He was injured Nov. 10 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Who's hot: Ekman-Larsson has three goals and one assist in the past four games. ... Skille has three goals in a two-game point streak. ... Barrie and Johnson each have one goal and two assists in two-game point streaks.

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