Following a promising sweep of a four-game homestand, the Arizona Coyotes have followed with a three-game road losing streak.
A 3-1 defeat to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday made the Coyotes 0-2-1 over the last three contests. Arizona now looks to exact a bit of revenge when the teams meet again Sunday afternoon in Tempe, Ariz.
Arizona (27-34-12, 66 points) has won six in a row at home where it is a solid 20-11-3. The Coyotes defeated the visiting Avalanche on Dec. 27, and they can earn a split of the season series with a win Sunday.
They hung tough with the Avalanche on Friday night in Denver until giving up two goals in the third period. It was also the third game in four nights for Arizona, but it wasn’t an excuse for coach Andre Tourigny.
“You can say that the mistakes we made were fatigue,” Tourigny said after Friday’s loss. “It’s a good learning curve for us. It’s a good learning process. Everybody in the league has had a tough stretch and you need to maintain your performance.”
Forward Clayton Keller has done that this season. He has a team-high 35 goals — including eight in the last seven games — and he’s riding an 11-game point streak. He scored Arizona’s lone goal Friday night and showed off his stickhandling abilities by lifting a backhander past goaltender Alexandar Georgiev.
Colorado (42-23-6, 90 points) also has a couple of players on a roll. Defenseman Cale Makar returned from a two-game absence with a goal and two assists, and Nathan MacKinnon matched that output in the win.
“He’s so fun to watch. I get to see it on a daily basis. Some of the moves he pulls, it’s pretty cool,” Makar said of MacKinnon. “Tonight there were like five minutes left, he does the thing where he places the puck and then skates into it. I like that. It’s pretty cool to see guys like him and (Edmonton Oilers captain Connor) McDavid do that.”
Like Keller, MacKinnon is riding an 11-game point streak.
“Nate finds a way to become more productive later in the year when the game has mattered,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “That’s just his will and want and desire to be successful, mixed with his ability and the drive he has.”
Bednar added that MacKinnon has stayed consistent despite playing with different line combinations. Last season he was mainly centering the line with Mikko Rantanen and captain Gabriel Landeskog, but injuries have forced Bednar to juggle his lines.
Recently Evan Rodrigues moved to the top line but he went into concussion protocol after taking a hit in a game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday. Rodrigues hasn’t played in the team’s last two games.
Rodrigues was on the ice for Saturday’s practice and could be back in the lineup on Sunday against the Coyotes.
“Hopefully, he should be able to play,” Bednar said.
Getting Rodrigues back will help, especially with Artturi Lehkonen (broken finger) sidelined for a few more weeks.