Avalanche looking for faster start against Coyotes

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Colorado does not have much to be unhappy with lately, as the Avalanche are 11-1-2 since early December and boast the NHL’s highest-scoring offense.

But the way the Avalanche lost in overtime at Nashville on Tuesday night left players and coaches a little angry. The Predators scored the winner on a power play after Colorado was called for too many men on the ice, but the Avs didn’t think it was a penalty.

“Some guys were pretty livid with how that ended,” defenseman Cale Makar said.

After two days of stewing about the call, Colorado will try to put it in the past when it hosts the Arizona Coyotes on Friday night in the opener of a home-and-home set.

The Avalanche can be upset about the call but they are also concerned about another slow start. In Colorado’s five-game winning streak that ended Tuesday night it had to rally to win each game, and came back from multiple-goal deficits in four of those games.

The Avalanche almost made it six straight wins and six straight comebacks after falling behind 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3. The early deficits are a worry for the players and the coaches.

“We need to be better early,” coach Jared Bednar said after the Nashville loss. “I liked the resiliency again. … We’ve got to make sure we played the way we played in the second half of that game tonight for a full 60 minutes.”

Colorado will likely be without defenseman Bo Byram again, after he left the team just before Tuesday’s game started. He had three concussions in the past year and, according to a report in The Athletic, Byram’s father said his son doesn’t have a new concussion but is having lingering effects of previous ones.

The Avs will be without Gabriel Landeskog after he tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday. Forward Darren Helm could also be out for the second straight game after a lower-body injury against Seattle on Monday night.

The Coyotes also are dealing with absences due to health and safety protocol. Head coach Andre Tourigny, as well as goaltender Scott Wedgewood and defensemen Jakob Chychrun, Cam Dineen and Anton Stralman were placed in the protocol Monday.

Despite those absences, Arizona beat one of the best teams in the league Wednesday night and spoiled a homecoming for Auston Matthews. The Coyotes beat Toronto 2-1 in Matthews’ return to his home state thanks to a big game by rookie goaltender Karel Vejmelka, who stopped 45 shots.

“It’s always better for a goalie to face so many shots,” Vejmelka said after the win. “It’s better than to have three, four shots for a period.”

Arizona has not had a lot to cheer about this season. The Coyotes have won only eight games and plays in one of the toughest divisions in the NHL.

This will also be their first time facing Colorado goaltender Darcy Kuemper since he was traded by the Coyotes to the Avalanche in the offseason. Kuemper is likely to play in one of the two games this weekend, with the teams playing again Saturday at Glendale, Ariz.

–Field Level Media

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