By Dave Vest DENVER – The Coyotes and the Colorado Avalanche, two of the bigger surprises in the NHL this season, will square off tonight at the Pepsi Center. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time).
Neither the Coyotes nor the Avalanche qualified for the Western Conference playoffs in 2008-09. Far from it. But a month into 2009-10, they rank first and fifth in the conference standings, respectively.
"This will be a real tough test for us," Coyotes forward Daniel Winnik said. "We need a good bounce-back game after the LA game (on Monday). They've played well as a team. I don't think they have too many guys that propel their team to wins, it's just a big group effort by them."
Phoenix (9-5-0) lost to Los Angeles, 5-3, on Monday but has won three of its past four games and has given up just 30 goals. No other Western Conference team has been as stingy.
Colorado (10-3-2) has lost two games in a row, both on the road where they've played 11 of their past 13 games. They now play three straight at home where they've allowed just seven goals - a league-low.
Coyotes captain Shane Doan snapped a three-game point-less streak with a goal and an assist in Monday's 5-3 loss to Los Angeles. Doan leads the Coyotes with 12 points.
Avalanche left wing Wojtek Wolski, the 24th overall pick of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, has scored three goals in the past four games, and leads the team in goals (eight) and co-leads in points (13).
Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (8-3-0) is starting the game after watching Monday's loss to LA from the bench. It will be Bryzgalov's first start since being named the NHL's Third Star of the Month for October. Meanwhile, Avs goalie Craig Anderson (10-3-2), whom the NHL named its First Star of the Month for October, will not play. Instead, backup Peter Budaj will make his first start of the season.
Colorado is one of only three teams in the NHL that have yet to lose on home ice in regulation. The Avs are 4-0-0 at the Pepsi Center. San Jose is 4-0-1 at home and Tampa Bay is 4-0-3.
The Coyotes recalled forward Mikkel Boedker from the American Hockey League on Tuesday and Boedker will play tonight in place of injured forward Scottie Upshall. Forward Peter Mueller will return to the lineup after being scratched the past two games.
"We've just got to go in there, throw pucks and get traffic on (Avs goalie Peter Budaj) and make it as difficult as possible."