After spending a lot of time this season on the road, the Colorado Avalanche will soon become quite familiar with their home ice.
The Avalanche are set to play 15 of their next 19 contests at the Pepsi Center, opening that stretch against the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday night.
Though the season is nearly three months old, Colorado (16-16-1) hasn’t spent much time in front of its home fans, playing 14 games in Denver. Seven of the Avalanche’s 10 December contests took place on the road, where they’re 8-10-1 this season.
“The last month and a half has been pretty strenuous as far as where we’ve been and how the games have been laid out,” coach Tony Granato told the Avalanche’s official Web site. “We got through a tough part, so now it’s about being able to move forward and take advantage of a nice part of our schedule.”
Colorado is tied for last in the Northwest Division with 33 points, but is only eight points behind first-place Vancouver.
Granato hopes this extensive stretch can help the Avalanche establish some consistency after they alternated wins and losses on their recently-completed four-game swing, capped by Sunday’s 3-0 loss at Florida.
Colorado managed just three shots in the first period, and was outshot for the sixth time in its last seven games.
“It was a very poor start on our part,” Granato said. “To make no excuses, it has been a long stretch of road games and travel. It looked like it caught up to us. We didn’t get our legs until the third period. By that time, it was too late.”
Peter Budaj made 22 saves, but has compiled a 3.71 goals-against average in losing three consecutive games. It’s expected that Andrew Raycroft will start Tuesday, having won his last three outings to improve to 5-1-0 with a 2.80 GAA in seven games this season.
But Raycroft has allowed four goals in losing both career outings versus the Coyotes, who have won four of their last five versus the Avalanche, including a 2-1 decision at home on Nov. 28.
Phoenix (16-14-4) has won three straight in Colorado, but the Coyotes haven’t been as successful away from home this season. They’re 5-10-2 as visitors, and lost for the fourth time in five games after a 4-2 defeat at Edmonton on Monday.
Phoenix trailed 2-0 early, and after tying the score in the second period, allowed two power-play goals in the third.
“We weren’t good enough in the first,” Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. “Obviously they jumped on us and because of that it put us in the hole and that’s where we lost the game, unfortunately.”
After Mikael Tellqvist made 23 saves in his first start since Dec. 4, the Coyotes are expected to have Ilya Bryzgalov in net on Tuesday. Bryzgalov has turned aside 91 of 94 shots in his last three starts, boasting a 1.79 GAA.
“He seems to be seeing the puck very well, and this is as solid as I’ve seen him play,” Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said after Bryzgalov made 31 saves for his sixth NHL shutout, 2-0 against visiting Columbus on Saturday.
Bryzgalov has a 1.98 GAA in winning three of his last four games against the Avalanche.
Doan leads the Coyotes with 14 goals and 31 points, and has 11 goals and 27 points in 45 career contests versus Colorado.