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Winning close suits Avalanche with Coyotes up next

Dec 23, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard (49) celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal in overtime against the Colorado Avalanche at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

A narrow victory is still a victory. As long as the result is two points, the Colorado Avalanche would happily accept another tight contest when they visit the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday in Tempe, Arizona.

Colorado is on a four-game winning streak, with its last three wins coming in either overtime or a shootout. The Avalanche are 6-1-0 in their last seven games, collecting five one-goal wins and outscoring opponents by a modest 17-12 margin.

“We’ve been fighting, grinding out wins, low-scoring games,” forward Evan Rodrigues said. “Even when we’re down, guys believe we can come back. We’ve just got to stick with it.”

Rodrigues recorded the assist on Samuel Girard’s game-winning goal in the Avalanche’s last game, a 3-2 overtime win over the Nashville Predators on Friday.

Dynamic offense was a cornerstone of Colorado’s run to the Stanley Cup last summer. This season, however, long-term injuries to Nathan McKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog have sapped the Avalanche of some of their scoring punch.

Valeri Nichushkin also missed 17 games due an ankle injury and is questionable for Tuesday’s lineup. Nichushkin made an early exit against the Predators due to an unspecified lower-body injury.

With goals at a premium, the Avalanche have instead succeeded due to a renewed focus on defense. An improved penalty kill has helped atone for a cold power play. In Colorado’s last nine games, the penalty-kill unit is 16-for-19, while the team has only scored twice in 24 power-play chances.

Alexandar Georgiev has been a difference-maker in net for Colorado. The goaltender has been strong all season, and Georgiev has been in particularly good form with a 4-0-0 record and .964 save percentage in his last four outings.

Georgiev figures to start Tuesday unless the Avalanche want backup Pavel Francouz — who last played on Dec. 13 — to see some action.

The Coyotes also needed to go beyond regulation time in their last game, as Arizona collected a 2-1 shootout victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Friday. The win ended the Coyotes’ three-game (0-2-1) winless streak and sent the team into the NHL’s three-day holiday break on a positive note after a difficult first 32 games.

Due to a pair of lengthy road trips while Mullett Arena was being refigured for NHL play, the Coyotes have played more road games (22) than any other team in the league. Head coach Andre Tourigny felt the situation was harder mentally than physically on his players, but he believes the Coyotes emerged in good position.

“We’re in it every night, so with the schedule we had we needed to be resilient,” Tourigny said. “But now we cannot be satisfied. We need to make the next step and just find another gear.”

Karel Vejmelka stopped 26 of 27 Los Angeles shots on Friday, and he will likely also get the start against Colorado.

Matias Macelli is questionable for Tuesday after leaving Arizona’s last game with a lower-body injury.

Nick Schmaltz has seven points (two goals, five assists) over the course of his five-game points streak.

The Coyotes’ power play has also been struggling and will face a tough test in the Avalanche’s red-hot penalty-kill unit. Arizona is just 5-for-56 on the power play over its last 17 games.

–Field Level Media

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