Season series: The Phoenix Coyotes have won both of their previous games this season against the Colorado Avalanche. In their last meeting, the Coyotes blanked the Avalanche, 4-0, on April 6 at Jobing.com Arena.
Big story: While both the Coyotes and Avalanche have been eliminated from contention for a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, each team will look to generate some positive momentum for 2013-14 in their final two games of the season.
Coyotes: Just 12 months ago Phoenix had won its first division championship in the NHL and was in the midst of a remarkable run to the Western Conference Finals. One year removed from the most successful season in franchise history, however, the Coyotes will be spending spring at home for the first time in four years following a 4-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.
Despite being eliminated from contention, Phoenix responded with a solid 2-1 win against the playoff-bound San Jose Sharks on Wednesday night. With Colorado and an Anaheim Ducks team likely to be resting most of its starters left on the schedule, the Coyotes are a solid bet to finish the season strong, but doing so may only leave Dave Tippett and his players wondering what could have happened with one more win.
Phoenix has posted a 14-8-1 home record this season and is 86-44-16 at home since the start of the 2009-10 campaign. Moreover, the Coyotes are 3-0-0 in final regular-season home games under Tippett, and they have won seven of their previous eight regular-season home finales.
Mike Smith, who is 8-1-1 with a 1.42 goals-against average vs. the Avalanche, will start in search of his 16th win of the season.
Forward Rob Klinkhammer, who missed Wednesday's game because of an upper-body injury, will be back in the lineup for this game.
Avalanche: Considering the strong offensive crop of young offensive players on the Colorado roster, it's somewhat mystifying to see the Avs with the worst record in the Western Conference. But hockey, like most sports, can be difficult to predict, and despite having the likes of Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Paul Stastny and, once he signed midseason, Ryan O'Reilly in the fold, Colorado has just two games left in its third-consecutive season without a playoff berth.
The last month has been a rough one for the Avs, who have just three wins in 12 games in April, including a 3-1 loss at St. Louis in their last game Tuesday night. After visiting Phoenix on Friday night, Colorado will wrap up its season at home against the Minnesota Wild.
Who's hot: Phoenix's Radim Vrbata, who was drafted by the Avalanche in the seventh round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, has two goals and an assist in his last four games. … Colorado may have struggled in April, but apparently no one's been telling Cody McLeod. The left wing has five goals in his last five games.
Injury report: Defenseman Derek Morris (lower body) is out for Phoenix... Erik Johnson (hand) is questionable for Colorado.
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