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Avs look for more home cooking as Coyotes visit

by Brian Hunter
COYOTES (5-3-2) at AVALANCHE (7-4-0)


Last 10:
Colorado 7-3-0

Season Series:
First of four meetings. The Coyotes won the first three matchups last season -- two by shutout -- before the Avalanche recorded a 4-3 shootout win in Phoenix on April 1.

Big Story: October featured an early five-game road swept which the Avalanche swept to establish some early positive momentum. November will see them play 10 of 14 at the Pepsi Center, so it's important Colorado starts to play as well in front of its home faithful as it has been in opponents' barns. The Avs took a step in that direction with Sunday's 3-2 win over the Kings.

Team Scope:

The early returns on new No. 1 goalie Mike Smith have been promising, with the indications that the former Stars and Lightning netminder might be capable of leading Phoenix to a third straight playoff berth. Smith is 3-0-1 in his past four starts and improved to 4-2-2 with a 2.57 goals-against average and .919 save percentage after backstopping the Coyotes to a 3-2 overtime win over the Kings on Saturday. He made 37 saves and was rewarded when Daymond Langkow scored with 43.7 seconds left in the extra period. Radim Vrbata had both regulation goals for Phoenix.

"He hung in there," coach Dave Tippett told the Arizona Republic. "He was real strong, real solid. You don't remember a lot of spectacular saves, which is sometimes a really good thing for a goaltender. It just means he's real solid, in position."

Eschewing the concept of home-ice advantage, Colorado entered Sunday having sent a lot of paying customers unhappy over the season's first four weeks: The Avalanche had a 6-1-0 record on the road and were 0-3-0 in their own building. They finally got a positive result at the Pepsi Center by edging the Kings 3-2 on a Matt Duchene goal early in the third period. The third-year forward had gone six games without a goal and was briefly demoted to the fourth line the previous week.

"It's going to be good for Matt to get that one out of the way," coach Joe Sacco said. "Players feed off confidence, and that will help his confidence a little bit. More importantly, it was part of a two-point night for the team."

Who's Hot:
Vrbata now has 2 goals and 3 assists in the Coyotes' past two games. Martin Hanzal has 3 goals and 3 assists in the last four games. … Kyle Quincey has 1 goal and 4 assists during a four-game points streak for the Avalanche to tie him for the team lead in scoring.

Injury Report:
Phoenix defenseman Michal Rozsival is sidelined with head and facial injuries and new forward Cal O'Reilly is day-to-day with a groin injury. … Colorado forward Peter Mueller is out indefinitely after concussion-like symptoms recurred. Forward Brandon Yip is also on the shelf with a broken forearm.

Stat Pack:
The Coyotes have killed off 31 of their last 34 shorthanded situations. … Gabriel Landeskog, the No. 2 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, finished October with 4 goals, one short of the Avalanche record for a rookie set by Marek Svatos during the 2005-06 season.

Puck Drop: With forward Kyle Turris still unsigned and asking for a trade, Phoenix moved to acquire depth in the middle last week by sending a fourth-round pick in 2012 to Nashville for O'Reilly. In 85 games for the Predators over parts of four seasons, the 25-year-old had 11 goals and 35 points.

"(O'Reilly) is good young center ice man, very clever, creative," GM Don Maloney told the Arizona Republic. "I'm not overly optimistic that Kyle will sign with us this season. However, the door is always open for him to return. O'Reilly is a good player. We've targeted him for a while, a clever center iceman, quick."

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