Among a jam-packed slate of action on Saturday, the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes will face off once again in the desert. Their rematch comes one day after the Avs held the Coyotes off in a dramatic ending to win 3-2. Due to postponements earlier this season, Friday also ended up being the first time these West Division rivals faced off.
Here is a closer look at some key stats and important players, followed as always by a free pick. Colorado is once again a slight favorite on the road.
By the Numbers
You’ll notice on both sides of the ice that the road team holds the advantages. Beginning with scoring, the Avs are averaging 2.88 goals per game, 18th in the NHL, on 31.7 shots. The Coyotes, meanwhile, are sitting at just 2.6 goals per game on 26.6 shots, the second-fewest attempts in the league. Colorado also holds a 23.5 to 19.7 percent advantage on the power play this season.
Defensively, few teams are better than the Avalanche. An upstart group of defensemen, combined with a goalie in great form, leads to Colorado ranking fourth with 2.35 goals allowed and leading the league with 26.1 shots allowed and a penalty kill percentage just above 89 percent. In comparison, Arizona is 14th in the NHL with 2.8 goals allowed on 29. 7 shots, with a penalty, kill still within the top-10 but one still about seven percentage points behind their opponent’s.
Avalanche Betting Preview
Friday provided a demonstration of what the Avs can do. Colorado held the Coyotes to just 18 shots on goal, dominated in the faceoff circle, and spent less time in the penalty box. They broke the scoreless tie with a power-play goal in the second before netting two goals in the third to pad their lead. The point being, although they’re just 3-3 since returning from a sizable COVID layoff, the Avalanche are still one of the better teams in all of hockey.
Leading the way for Colorado is center and anchor Nathan MacKinnon. With just four goals, MacKinnon has yet to go on a goal-scoring tear, but he’s setting his teammates up with a team-leading 15 assists. MacKinnon’s linemate Mikko Rantanen leads the Avs with eight goals, four of which coming on the power play, the last of them coming on Friday. Last year’s Calder Trophy runner-up Cale Makar is second in assists with 13 while still looking to add to his lone score. Elsewhere, veterans Nazem Kadri and Brandon Saad each have six goals, while d-man Samuel Girard has dished out nine helpers.
With Hunter Miska drawing the start on Friday, expect the starter Philipp Grubauer to return to his spot between the pipes. Grubauer has been sensational, going 9-5-0 with a 2.01 GAA and .922 save percentage.
Coyotes Betting Preview
With 21 points, the Coyotes find themselves tied with both the Avs and the Kings for fourth place in the West, even though they’ve played one more game than LA and three more than Colorado. They won back-to-back games against the Ducks this week at home, overcoming three-goal deficits in both of them. And they nearly did it again on Friday with two goals scored in the final two minutes to nearly send the game to OT. Although they’re not elite, the Coyotes certainly can’t be counted out of any game.
Arizona’s leading scorer thus far is Conor Garland. Through 20 games, Garland has been a solid distributor of the puck, cashing in 12 assists to go with seven goals. He also is at a whopping +10 in plus-minus, with the next-highest teammate coming in at +3. Following him are a pair of goal-scorers, each with 16 points. Christian Dvorak leads the Yotes with nine goals, five of them coming on the power play, while the veteran sniper Phil Kessel is up to eight goals, four of which have come over his last five contests. Among the other point-producers, d-man Jakob Chychrun is the only other player with double-digit assists to join Garland, while he, Nick Schmaltz, and Clayton Keller all have five goals or more.
Backup netminder Adin Hill started Friday, so reason would expect Darcy Kuemper or even Antti Raanta to man the crease on Saturday. However, both are dealing with minor ailments, so nothing is set in stone yet. Kuemper will likely be well enough to play, as the vet is 6-7-2 but carries a solid 2.41 GAA and .912 save percentage.
Deciding to take this game may be as simple as waiting to see who starts in net for the Coyotes. Should Kuemper play, I actually like Arizona’s ability to hang around with a Colorado team that still isn’t firing on all cylinders quite yet. Depending on the goalie situation and the subsequent odds, take a flyer on the underrated Coyotes as home underdogs to win the second half of this back-to-back.
Pick: Coyotes ML