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Shorthanded Coyotes end road trip against Avalanche

by Adam Kimelman

COYOTES (16-8-5) at AVALANCHE (20-8-0)


Last 10: Phoenix 3-4-3; Colorado 6-4-0

Season series: The Phoenix Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche will play for the second time this season. On Nov. 21, Ryan O'Reilly scored in the final minute of overtime to give the Avalanche a 4-3 victory.

Big story: The shorthanded Coyotes will look to finish their four-game road trip on a positive note after back-to-back losses to the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks. They'll have to do so without captain Shane Doan for a second straight game due to the flu.

"He's a big piece of our puzzle," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett told the team's website. "But if he's out, other guys have to take more [responsibility] and have to step up. He's a big player that plays with skill. He plays hard and in front of the net on the power play, and provides leadership in the dressing room. But there are players that we have that can take some of that slack."

Team scope:

Coyotes: Left off the trip to Denver were three key players, but it was the one who went with them had Tippett smiling.

Zbynek Michalek, out since Nov. 14 with a lower-body injury, practiced Monday and could play Tuesday.

"It's a good step in the right direction," Michalek told the team's website. "It feels good, especially mentally, to be with the guys again and to get the practice under my belt. Hopefully I keep improving and getting better."

Michalek has four points and a plus-9 rating in 20 games, and is third on the team in ice time per game at 21:08.

"There's a lot of parts of the game that he touches," Tippett told the team's website. "You look at penalty killing and defending, the areas we're trying to improve in, [those] are areas that's his M.O. Getting him back would certainly help those areas."

Avalanche: Not much was expected from Jan Hejda this season, but after going a combined minus-20 in his first two seasons in Colorado, he's ranks among the League leaders with a plus-17 in 26 games.

That made his loss to a knee injury Dec. 5 all that much tougher to take, but there is a chance he could return sooner than expected. A follow-up examination by doctors in Denver revealed that Hejda had a strain of his knee, and he could return skating this week and possibly return to the lineup as soon as the Avalanche's game Saturday against the Minnesota Wild.

In addition to his high plus/minus number, Hejda has nine points, one shy of his total in 46 games last season.

Who's hot: Coyotes center Mike Ribeiro has 11 points in his past 11 games. … Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog has six points in his past five games.

Injury report: Besides Doan, also out is forward Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) and defenseman Derek Morris (family issue). … Besides Hejda the Avalanche are missing forward Alex Tanguay (knee) and defenseman Ryan Wilson (back).


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