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Coyotes' Hanzal in, Vermette out against Avalanche

by Jerry Brown / NHL.com

AVALANCHE (4-7-1) at COYOTES (5-5-1)

TV: ALT2, FS-A

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The musical chairs at center for the Arizona Coyotes will continue Thursday.

Martin Hanzal is in; Antoine Vermette is out.

Hanzal, who has missed the past two games because of a lower-body injury, practiced this week and will be back when the Coyotes end a five-day break against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.

Despite missing two games, Hanzal leads the Coyotes with 10 assists and his 10 points are second on the Coyotes to Max Domi's 11. Coach Dave Tippett said he hopes Hanzal's return will have a positive effect on linemates Tobias Rieder and Anthony Duclair, who have cooled after a hot start.

"That line was really good early in the season and Hanzal was the catalyst," Tippett said. "Duclair played well, but he was the beneficiary of some steady work from Hanzal. He's one of those players that makes everyone better."

Vermette, who had two assists in a 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 30 after missing three games, has been undergoing further tests pertaining to a lower-body injury that has hampered him for several weeks.

"He skated a little bit today but won't play tonight," Tippett said. "He was out there for 15 or 20 minutes today, which is a good sign. Hopefully he's moving in the right direction."

Struggling goalie Mike Smith will start for the Coyotes. Smith allowed two goals on three shots and was pulled 4:26 into the loss against the Canucks. After playing well to begin the season, Smith has allowed 25 goals on 169 shots in his past seven games (.852 save percentage) that pushed his goals-against average to 3.18.

"He just needs get stabilized and I think the time off did him some good," Tippett said.

Tippett said the break allowed the Coyotes to get some needed rest and practice time after a hectic, road-heavy first month.

"Our group is rested and rejuvenated and hopefully that energy will work to our favor," Vermette said.

Semyon Varlamov will start in goal for Colorado, with Reto Berra scheduled to play Friday when the Avalanche complete a back-to-back at home against the New York Rangers.

Colorado begins a stretch that will see them play 12 of the next 15 games on the road.

The Avalanche have scored nine goals in the past two games, with the line of Jarome Iginla, Nathan McKinnon and Alex Tanguay leading the way. Iginla had two goals and three points in a 6-3 win against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday and is five goals from 600 in his career.

Here are the projected lineups:

AVALANCHE

Alex Tanguay - Nathan MacKinnon - Jarome Iginla

Gabriel Landeskog - Matt Duchene - Carl Soderberg

Cody McLeod - Mikhail Grigorenko - Blake Comeau

Dennis Everberg - Ben Street - Jack Skille

Francois Beauchemin - Erik Johnson

Nick Holden - Tyson Barrie

Brandon Gormley - Brad Stuart

Semyon Varlamov

Reto Berra

Injured: John Mitchell (oblique), Jesse Winchester (upper body)

Scratched: Nate Guenin, Nikita Zadorov

COYOTES

Tobias Rieder - Martin Hanzal - Anthony Duclair

Max Domi - Kyle Chipchura - Mikkel Boedker

Jordan Martinook - Brad Richardson - Shane Doan

Tyler Gaudet - Boyd Gordon - Steve Downie

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michael Stone

Klas Dahlbeck - Zbynek Michalek

Nicklas Grossman - Connor Murphy

Mike Smith

Anders Lindback

Injured: Stefan Elliott (upper body), Antoine Vermette (lower body), Joe Vitale (upper body)

Scratched: John Scott

Status update: Elliott did not skate Thursday and is day-to-day because of an upper-body injury.

Who's hot: Smith’s 2.02 GAA against Colorado is his lowest against any NHL team. In 13 career games he is 8-1-4 with a .935 save percentage. … Doan has four points in four home games this season. … Rieder has a goal in three of Arizona's four home games this season. … Iginla has 1,237 points, two from tying Peter Stastny for 37th on the all-time scoring list.

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