clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Game 60 Preview: Coyotes at Avalanche



Phoenix Coyotes
7:00 MT / 9:00 ET
Colorado Avalanche
February 12th, 2010
79 pts 
Pepsi Center
74 pts

2nd in Pacific

4th in West 

4th in the NHL

Denver, CO

2nd in Northwest

6th in West

8th in the NHL

Let the battle of the surprise teams commence! The Avalanche take on the Coyotes tonight in a game between the two biggest surprises in the NHL. The AVS and Yotes were picked by many to finish 15th and 14th, respectively, in the the West this season. However, both teams have surpassed EVERYONE'S wildest expectations and evaluations to create two feel good stories of the season. They have both already equaled or bested their point totals from last season. Be aware: these are not your older brother's Coyotes - this team is GOOD. Tonight's game is also the 2nd to last game for the AVS before the Olympic break so it is essential that the AVS finish strong and regain first place in the NW. If the AVS win tonight (or get OT) and the Nucks lose to the BJ's, then the AVS will retake 1st in the NW.

Tonight will mark the second meeting between the teams this season, with Colorado taking the first game back on Nov. 4th by a score of 4-1. Budaj got the win against Bryzgalov in Bood's first start of the season after conquering swine flu. Hejduk (2), Jones, and Svatos scored for the AVS, and SoS chipped in with 3 assists. The final score is deceiving though because it was 2-1 with a minute left when Jones scored on a breakaway (get well soon Dr. Jones) and then Hejduk added an empty netter.

MHH readers are familiar with the Avalanche's predicted woes this season. With a new coach, a bunch of kids, and a unproven starting goaltender, the season appeared pretty grim at the outset, but those supposed weaknesses have proven to be strengths that nobody could have predicted. Starting goaltender Craig Anderson carried this young Avalanche team on his back early in the season posting the best October in franchise history. He gave the Young Guns confidence and eventually the team came together under the tutelage of coach Joe Sacco. Now Andy doesn't have to bail his team out EVERY night, but he is there for them when he has to be.

Similarly, Phoenix has been propelled through the standings by the quietly strong play of their netminder Ilya Bryzgalov. He and Craig Anderson are probably the two most underrated goalies (if not players) in the NHL today. Ilya's record is 32-15-4,  with a .921 save %, 2.29 GAA (7th overall), and 6 shutouts (tied for 2nd with Craig Anderson). His 32 wins put him 4th overall in that category. Phoenix had all kinds of trouble last summer. They filed for bankruptcy on May 5th 2009 and were subsequently bought by the NHL. On top of that, they brought in a new coach in Dave Tippett, who was fired from Dallas after last season failures in Big D. Similarly to Sacco, Coach Tippett has turned his team around and given them much needed structure and discipline. Sacco and Tippett will compete down to the wire for coach of the year and it is more than likely that one of them will take home the Jack Adams trophy. 

Both teams will be playing the first of back-to-back games tonight so there's a chance (about -10%) that we could see Budaj between the pipes for the Avalanche and Jason Labarbera for the Desert Dogs. Which would kinda be a bummer cuz I'd like to see Andy and Bryz go head-to-head, Clash of the Titans style. UPDATE: Anderson will start tonight, surprise, surprise. Bryzgalov is listed as probable. Should be exciting to watch two of the games best.

The other big question for the AVS is what to do with their 8+ healthy D-Men. The trade freeze goes into effect today at  3pm EST, which leaves just 72 hours from March 1-3 for the AVS front office to wheel and deal before the big push for the playoffs. There has been a lot of speculation that Liles, Clark, Svatos, Salei and Preissing are all on the trading block - especially Liles with his numerous benchings lately. In reality, the AVS are in a great position to make some moves to shore up the forward lines a little. No major overhauls, just a minor tweak here or there. I have to believe Liles is close to gone. His plentiful benchings are possibly a way for the ownership to ease the young players into get used to the idea of Liles leaving. At this point, I'm guessing Liles wouldn't be too upset about a trade. He's an athlete - he'd rather play than sit in a press box, no matter how good the nachos are.

One thing is for sure about tonight's game: this is not a battle of overachievers, both teams have earned and deserve their place in the standings.

Five For Howling