|VANCOUVER, BC - DECEMBER 8: Kevin Bieksa #3 of the Vancouver Canucks gets his stick caught between the legs of Max Talbot #25 of the Colorado Avalanche during the first period in NHL action on December 08, 2013 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Bieksa received a minor penalty on the play. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)|
Headlines: If you were to look ahead to tonight’s matchup one month ago, it would have surely been between two of the hottest teams in the Western Conference. Although both teams are still poised for a postseason run, neither is looking like championship material as of late. Phoenix has dropped seven of their last ten games while the Avalanche have lost three of six.
Even through this tough stretch, Phoenix remains one of the top scoring teams in the NHL, averaging 3.1 goals per game and boasting the 7th best power play in the league. Both Semyon Varlamov and Jean Sebastian Giguere have had their struggles in net recently for Colorado with Giguere giving up three goals in the loss on Sunday. Head Coach Patrick Roy will most likely turn to Varlamov tonight, who has been resting the last two games with a groin injury. Varlamov is 13-7-0 with a 2.43 GAA heading into tonight’s game.
The Coyotes will turn to starter Mike Smith, who is having one of the best seasons of his seven year career. He is 13-6-5 with a 3.01 GAA so far this year.
Key Matchup: Can a struggling Phoenix team score enough on the road to survive a Colorado team that is looking to get back on the right track after a tough road trip of their own? Coyotes RW Radim Vrbata is leading the team with 24 points this season while D Keith Yandle continues his surprising season, already with 16 assists. Tonight is the last game of a four game trip for the Coyotes before they head home for the Hurricanes and Islanders this week.
Injuries: The Avalanche still do not have LW Alex Tanguay or D Ryan Wilson back from injury. D Jan Hedja remains out with a knee injury but, could return as early as Saturday against Minnesota although Monday against the Stars seems more likely.
The Coyotes will look like a shell of themselves Tuesday night at Pepsi Center with all of the injuries plaguing their lineup. 17 year veteran RW Shane Doan will be out because of an illness. The Coyotes will also be without LW Lauri Korpikoski because of injury, and although D Zbynek Michalek skated Monday with the team, the Arizona Republic reports that he remains out with a lower body injury.
|EDMONTON, AB - DECEMBER 5: P.A. Parenteau #15 of the Colorado Avalanche celebrates his team's second goal against he Edmonton Oilers during an NHL game at Rexall Place on December 5, 2013 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)|
Headlines: The Avalanche are less than 24 hours removed from their worse loss of the 2013-2014 season, falling 8-2 last night. Semyon Varlamov played the entire game, giving up all eight goals. Can Colorado use the quick turnaround to forget about the loss and turn their attention to the struggling Flames?
Despite the poor record, Calgary does enter Friday night’s game on a two game winning streak with impressive victories over the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes in the last week. If the Flames hope to take down the Avalanche, they will lean heavily on LW Jiri Hudler who leads the team with 25 points and 18 assists this season. Hudler had two points in Wednesday’s win over Phoenix.
Key Matchup: It’s hard to tell whether or not Semyon Varlamov would have gotten the next start for the Avs after giving up eight goals in a game but, luckily for head coach Patrick Roy, he will not have to make that call with the back to back. Jean Sebastian-Giguere will be in net tonight for the Avalanche. Giguere is 6-0-0 with a 1.62 GAA so far this year. Giguere made 30 saves in Colorado’s win over the Flames in November.
The Flames will go with 3rd year veteran Karri Ramo. Ramo is 4-4-1 with a 3.00 GAA in 9 starts this year. Ramo has started for the Flames in both games during their current two game winning streak.
Injuries: Colorado D Jan Hedja suffered a knee injury in Thursday night’s loss at Edmonton. He is listed as day to day. LW Alex Tanguay and D Ryan Wilson remain out with injuries. Flames RW Brian McGrattan is listed as day to day and did not practice Thursday with the team. D Mark Giordano returned from IR Wednesday night against the Coyotes and scored a goal in his return. He is expected to play tonight against the Avs.