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Need to Get Back on Track

The Colorado Avalanche hope a home-and-home series with a team they have dominated in recent years can get them back on track, starting with Monday's road game against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Trying to avoid matching their season high with a third straight loss, the Avalanche (21-15-2) hope to take advantage of a Phoenix club which has the second-worst record in the Western Conference. This is the first of four games between the clubs, with the next one coming Wednesday in Colorado.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Colorado -107 money line favorites (NHL Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 5.5 goals (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 53% of bets for this game have been placed on Phoenix -103 View NHL Bet Percentages).

The Avalanche have won nine of the last 10 meetings and have not lost in regulation in 16 straight matchups with the Coyotes (17-18-1), dating to a 5-3 loss in Phoenix on March 30, 2002. Since that game, Colorado has won all five of its visits to Arizona.

Among the Avs to have beaten up on the Coyotes in recent years is Joe Sakic, who has seven goals and 10 assists in the last 12 meetings. But the veteran center underwent hernia surgery Friday and will miss at least two months.

Since joining Colorado for the 2005-06 season, Andrew Brunette has 12 points in eight games versus Phoenix. Brunette, coming off a career-high 27-goal season, has been limited to one goal in his last 12 games and just six for the season.

But he's not the only struggling forward for Colorado as Avs leading scorers Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk have not recorded a point in three straight games. Colorado is 6-10-1 when Hejduk goes pointless, compared to 11-4-1 when he doesn't.

Both stars, however, played well against the Coyotes last season. Stastny had four goals and two assists in the four meetings while Hejduk added two goals and three assists.

One player who could be getting on track for Colorado is defenseman Jordan Leopold, who scored his second goal of the season in a 3-1 loss to Los Angeles on Saturday. Leopold had missed the previous four games with a cut on his right leg, and has been limited to 11 games this season due to various injuries.

"It's been a challenge," Leopold said. "It felt good (to score). Obviously, it feels better when you win, but it's nice to get one."

Leopold hopes to help Colorado keep the clamps on Phoenix's power play, which is 2-for-21 over the last five games. The Coyotes, who have lost three straight, are among the league's worst teams with the man advantage with a 14.5-percent success rate.

They were 0-for-4 on Saturday in a 4-2 loss to Detroit.

"We talked about the power play for the last four days," coach Wayne Gretzky said. "Our power play has to score and contribute."

Colorado has allowed three power-play goals in its last nine games and has been short-handed just 24 times during that span.

One bright spot for the Coyotes on Saturday was seeing Radim Vrbata contribute a goal and an assist. He had gone pointless in four straight, though he still leads the team with 14 goals and is second with 26 points behind Shane Doan (28).

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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