PREVIEW: Colorado Avalanche ride 7-game win streak into rematch with Coyotes

Mar 16, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) looks for a pass infant of Anaheim Ducks goaltender Ryan Miller (30) in the third period at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Goligoski hit a milestone Monday night when he skated in his 900th NHL game. The Arizona Coyotes defenseman was happy about reaching that number, but he also realized it came at a price, going against Colorado Avalanche star center Nathan MacKinnon.

“It’s perfect. I want to chase around MacKinnon for 60 minutes. That’s how I drew it up,” Goligoski jokingly said Monday.

Goligoski and his teammates were aware of what it meant to go against MacKinnon and visiting Colorado, which is on a tear over the past two weeks. The Avalanche earned a 5-1 win over the Coyotes, their seventh victory in a row. They haven’t lost since falling to Arizona on March 8 in Denver.

The two teams meet again Tuesday night in Glendale, Ariz., to wrap up a quick two-game set.

The Avalanche have taken off in the last two weeks after muddling through a mediocre stretch. They were 4-4-1 in the nine games after the loss to the Coyotes, but they have outscored teams 32-8 on their winning streak and 24-6 in the past four games.

The Avalanche have cranked up the offense while riding the play of goalie Philipp Grubauer. The 29-year-old German earned his 19th win of the season Monday, setting a career high. He has offset the shaky backup goaltending situation.

Pavel Francouz was supposed to be the No. 2 guy but he has not played this season because of a lower-body injury.

Read More: RECAP: Streaking Colorado Avalanche blow out slumping Coyotes

Hunter Miska has played in five games but was pulled from one, meaning Grubauer has played in 26 of the team’s 30 games.

“Grubi has been outstanding for us, having so much confidence back there, and we have so much confidence in him making those saves,” defenseman Cale Makar said Saturday after the Avalanche’s 6-0 win against the Minnesota Wild. “It helps us out a lot being able to play our game and move the puck quicker and not have to worry about that aspect of the game, because he’ll make those big saves for us.”

Colorado made a trade Saturday it hopes will stabilize the goaltending situation behind Grubauer, getting Jonas Johansson from the Buffalo Sabres. Johansson served as the backup Monday, and he could play Tuesday night. He was 0-5-1 with a 3.79 goals-against average with the Sabres this season.

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said he would announce his decision on his starting goaltender on Tuesday.

If Johansson gets the start, the Coyotes will try to test the young netminder to get back on the winning track. Arizona has lost six of its past seven games (1-4-2), though it was coming off a 5-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday before losing to Colorado.

To salvage a split of the two games, the Coyotes will have to limit scoring opportunities for the Avalanche. With Colorado close to full health, it is tougher to focus on one line, but the offense starts with MacKinnon’s line.

Related: NHL power rankings – Panthers roar to No. 1 ahead of Stanley Cup playoffs

The trio of MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen has combined for 20 points over the past three games. Rantanen scored a goal Monday with assists from both of his linemates.

Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said, “They have a lot of depth and they came at us in waves. You’re trying to find guys to go out there with and have some energy. There were certain parts of the game that we held our own, but their depth just really took over.”

Rantanen said, “We’re playing the right way. We defend well and we get the wins.”

–Field Level Media