By Dave Vest GLENDALE – The Coyotes, with their first NHL playoffs berth since 2001-02 firmly secured, will host the Colorado Avalanche tonight in front of a sellout crowd at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 6 p.m. (Arizona time).
The Coyotes officially qualified for the playoffs on Saturday afternoon when the Boston Bruins beat the Calgary Flames 5-0. The Flames are the ninth-place team in the Western Conference with 83 points and only seven games left.
Phoenix (46-22-6) will enter the game in fourth place in the Western Conference standings with 98 points. Colorado (41-25-7) is in seventh place with 89 points.
“It’s a huge game for us,” Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. “...It’s a big night and we want to find a way to win… Obviously, we are battling with Colorado. There are so many teams right around us (in the standings) and we’ve got to make sure we keep winning.”
The Coyotes, who have lost two straight games, did not practice on Friday nor did they have a morning skate on Saturday.
Ilya Bryzgalov is expected to start in goal for Phoenix, which is hoping to even the season series vs. Colorado at two games apiece. The home team has won the first three games.
Colorado has lost three of its past four games. It last played on Wednesday and beat the Los Angeles Kings, 4-3, in a shootout. In that game, the Avs broke a 0-for-11 drought on the power play by going 2 for 6.
Avalanche goaltender Craig Anderson has been impressed by Phoenix’s 9-1-1 record since adding five players just before the trade deadline.
“They’ve got some good players over there and a good coaching staff,” Anderson told the Avalanche’s official Web site. “I think sometimes you just gel together as a team and right now they’re doing it. They’re playing great hockey right now.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: Tonight's game will be aired on 550 (AM) KFYI instead of XTRA Sports 910 (AM).
Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle notched three points on Thursday vs. Nashville and leads the team's defensemen with 12 goals and 37 points.
Colorado center Paul Stastny, the 44th overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, has scored six goals in his past seven games.
Forward Wojtek Wolski has notched four goals and five assists in 11 games since coming to the Coyotes in a trade with the Avalanche on March 3 for Peter Mueller and Kevin Porter. Meanwhile, Mueller has notched five goals and 10 assists in 11 games and Porter has notched one assist in seven games for Colorado.
The Coyotes are 26-10-2 through 38 home games this season, leaving them one win shy of matching the franchise record for most home wins in a season (27 set in 2001-02).
If he plays, Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson will tie Patrick Roy's franchise record for games in a season (65).
Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney reacts to the team clinching its first berth in the NHL playoffs since 2001-02.