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Colorado Avalanche Gameday: It’s Going Down in the Desert

Colorado heads to Arizona to take on the struggling Coyotes.

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Colorado Avalanche Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

After a couple days of rest around the Christmas holiday, the Colorado Avalanche ride into the Arizona desert high on the back of four straight wins and will look to extend their late-December winning streak.

Unfortunately rather than give Coach Bednar his injured toys back, Santa took a couple more away as Val Nichushkin and Martin Kaut were dinged up in the last contest versus the Nashville Predators and Pavel Francouz picked up an injury as well.

The Coyotes also found a fresh injury under their tree, as rookie Mattias Maccelli was injured in their last game and will miss the next six weeks with a lower body. Maccelli was an early season bright spot in a very dark season in Arizona, sitting second among rookies in points and frequently sparking the Coyotes’ offense when their veterans could not.

Arizona has been a respectable 5-3-2 at home, and Colorado will need yet another new-look lineup to gel quickly in order to get the W in Mullett Arena.


Losing Nichushkin again is a big blow, and Kaut going down is frustrating as well. Both players were regaining the early season form that made Val the Avs leading scorer before his first injury and gave Kaut a shot to stick at the NHL level.

Francouz’s injury is a bit of a mystery, as there was no single in-game moment recently where he appeared to get hurt. This is the second game in a row that Jonas Johansson was called up from the Eagles to back up Alexandar Georgiev, so it must have occurred in practice last week. Hopefully he’s back soon.

In addition to Johansson, Charles Hudon was recalled from the AHL to take one of the forward spots, and Andrew Cogliano is likely to return to fill the other.

Coming off a very strong homestand before the holiday break and a decisive victory over the Predators in Nashville, the Avs should on paper be able to use this game against one of the league’s bottom feeders to tighten up their game and extend their win streak to 5, but Arizona has been sneaky-good at home and will not bow out easily to the defending champs. It should be a fun one tonight.


Artturi Lehkonen (62) - J.T. Compher (37) - Mikko Rantanen (96)

Alex Newhook (18) - Evan Rodrigues (9) - Dennis Malgin (81)

Andrew Cogliano (11) - Ben Meyers (59) - Logan O’Connor (25)

Kurtis MacDermid (56) - Charles Hudon (54) - Jacob MacDonald (26)

Cale Makar (8) - Devon Toews (7)

Sam Girard (49) - Erik Johnson (6)

Andreas Englund (88) - Brad Hunt (17)


The Coyotes’ front office is definitely Tanking Hard for Connor Bedard, but the players on the ice are still putting it all out there and defending home ice seems to be a strong suit. Granted, they are effectively 5-5 at home, with two of those losses coming in overtime, but they genuinely do pose a threat when they’re eating home cooking and getting life from their college arena fans.

In addition to impressive rookie Maccelli, Arizona has strong offensive players in points leader Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz, who will look to extend his season-long points streak to 6 against the Avs. Promising young players Jack McBain and Barrett Hayton still have a lot to prove, but can be dangerous as well when they’re on their game.

But Arizona focuses on keeping games low scoring to stay in them, and it worked for them in their last game, a 2-1 shootout win over the Los Angeles Kings. Their top pair of Jakob Chychrun and Shayne Gostisbehere hasn’t been as dynamic offensively as those players’ reputations may imply, but it has been stronger defensively than their reps would suggest too.

Sophomore blue liners JJ Moser and Juuso Valimaki have been effective as they’ve developed, and old friend Patrik Nemeth can still hold his own if he doesn’t have to handle the puck too much, as Avs fans well know.

They’re pretty bad on paper, these Coyotes. They’ve been playing 11 forwards and 7 defenseman, just lost a quality forward, and haven’t called anyone up to take his place... so they might be going 10 and 7 against the defending champs on a win streak.

They have enough scoring punch to win games if they’re able to lock it down defensively, and when promising young goaltender Karel Vejmelka is at his best they have been doing exactly that.


Clayton Keller - Travis Boyd - Nick Schmaltz
Jack McBain - Nick Bjugstad - Lawson Crouse
Nick Ritchie - Barrett Hayton - Christian Fischer
Zack Kassian

Jakob Chychrun - Shayne Gostisbehere
J.J. Moser - Juuso Valimaki
Patrik Nemeth - Josh Brown
Troy Stecher


Alexandar Georgiev has won four straight games and has let in exactly 4 goals in that stretch with a .965 save percentage. He’s PLAYING WELL to say the least, and the NHL recognized it as he was named second star of the week last week. He’ll have to keep doing so while Francouz nurses his mystery ailment.

Karel Vejmelka, who is likely to start for Arizona, has not been stealing games for Arizona of late other than the most recent Kings game. That’s a one game hot streak he will be looking to push to two.