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Coyotes try to snap slump as Avs come to Phoenix

by Pete Jensen

AVALANCHE (24-20-2) at COYOTES (20-18-7)


Last 10 : Colorado 6-3-1; Phoenix 2-4-4

Season Series: Monday marks the third of four meetings. The Coyotes and Avalanche split the first two, both of which took place at Pepsi Center in Denver. Mike Smith made 39 saves to will the Coyotes to a 4-1 win on Nov. 2, but Gabriel Landeskog helped the Avs defend home ice with the decisive third-period goal on Dec. 29 to seal a 3-2 victory for Colorado.

Big Story: The Avalanche venture to the desert for the first time this season to wrap up their three-game road trip. Colorado snapped a three-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory over the Dallas Stars on Saturday. On the flip side, Phoenix's recent woes continued last Friday as they dropped their third straight game, losing 4-3 to the NHL-worst Blue Jackets in Columbus.

Team Scope:

Avalanche : Colorado continues to excel in close games. Saturday's 2-1 win at Dallas improved their record in one-goal games to 16-5-2. Paul Stastny's power-play goal at 10:35 of the third period broke a 1-1 tie and moved him into a tie with Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duchene for the team lead in goals with 12. That sort of team scoring has the surging Avalanche moving into the playoff hunt with a 10-3-1 record since Dec. 17.

"We don't have the type of team that's going to win 5-0, so we need to earn whatever we get," said goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere who stopped 21 shots. "We need to play well defensively. We know that we have the capability to score two to three goals per game, so if you don't let them score much, then we should have a chance."

Coyotes : For a team that was so good on the road to start the season, Phoenix returns home searching for answers after going 0-1-2 on its most recent trip. A more immediate concern is the Coyotes' inability to win close games; all three losses all came by a single goal -- two in shootouts -- and Phoenix is 7-8-7 in one-goal contests this season. The Coyotes trailed 4-2 after two periods in Columbus, but got close on Radim Vrbata's third-period goal. However, despite outshooting the Jackets 29-17 during the last two periods, they couldn't get the equalizer.

"We threw everything out there," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "We were looking for that one break we needed to even it up, and it didn't come. We had some people do some good things. It just wasn't enough."

Who's Hot: Vrbata has scored goals in three consecutive games, and has six goals and two assists in his last seven. … Stastny, who recorded his fifth multi-point game of the season in the win over Dallas, has accumulated four points in his last five games.

Injury Report : Martin Hanzal (upper-body) and David Schlemko (foot) are on IR for the Coyotes, while Adrian Aucoin (lower-body) is questionable. … Duchene and Shane O'Brien are on injured reserve for Colorado with knee injuries.

Stat Pack: Smith, expected to start in goal for the Coyotes, is 4-1-1 against Colorado with a 1.56 GAA in six career games. … Giguere will likely get the start for the Avs; he is 0-1-5 but hasn't faced Phoenix since 2009.

Puck Drop: The Coyotes (20-18-7) have dropped out of the top eight in the West but have a chance to get healthy -- they play nine of their next 11 at home. However, they've struggled on their own ice, going 2-4-1 in their last seven games at Arena.

Captain Shane Doan knows that can't continue if the Coyotes hope to make the playoffs for the third year in a row.

"This is going to be a big part of our season," he said, "and we have to find ways to take care of home ice and find ways to win."

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