NHL Hockey

Avalanche seek win, breathing room vs. Coyotes

(AP Photo/Sam Hodde)

The Colorado Avalanche have a major opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the Arizona Coyotes in the pursuit of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

Riding a six-game point streak, the Avalanche are seeking their season-high fourth straight home victory Friday night against the desperate Coyotes in Denver.

Colorado opened a two-point advantage on Arizona in the race for the West's final wild-card spot by holding on for a 4-3 home victory over Vegas on Wednesday night. Tyson Barrie had a goal with two assists, Nathan MacKinnon added one of each and Philipp Grubauer stopped 34 shots as the Avalanche improved to 5-0-1 over their last six contests.

"That's a big win," coach Jared Bednar told the Avalanche's official website. "That puts the pressure back on the teams that are underneath us. Friday, regardless of if we won or lost (Wednesday), that's a big game, a huge game. If we can win that game, we put ourselves in a good spot."

That puts the onus on Arizona, just outside of playoff position in the West and with even less room for error than Colorado faces at the moment. The Coyotes ended an 0-3-2 rut with a gritty and certainly needed 1-0 home victory over Chicago on Tuesday night.

Nick Cousins scored on the power play 5:40 into the third period and Darcy Kuemper made 31 saves to help the Coyotes maintain their hope of reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2011-12.

"We've got to stay even keel," forward Lawson Crouse told the Coyotes' official website. "I mean, we can't get too high, can't get too low. ... You've just got to worry about being the best player you can be and helping the team win. That's what we're all trying do."

The Coyotes will try to snap an 0-3-1 road slide, during which they've totaled four goals, while visiting Colorado for the first time this season. The Avalanche, meanwhile, are amid an 8-2-1 home stretch.

"It's fun," Kuemper said. "This is the time of the year you want to be playing in (meaningful games), so it's fun to be part of. We're all enjoying it, and just have to keep pushing."

These teams split their first two meetings of 2018-19, both at Arizona. J.T. Compher scored twice and Grubauer made 37 saves during Colorado's 5-1 win there Nov. 23. Grubauer, who owns a 1.49 goals-against average while making six straight starts, was pulled after giving up four goals in less than two periods of a 6-4 loss to the Coyotes on Dec. 22.

Brad Richardson scored twice while Richard Panik and Derek Stepan each had a goal with an assist in that second contest for Arizona. Kuemper hasn't faced Colorado this season but owns a 1.62 goals-against average during his last eight starts.

Barrie, the Avalanche franchise leader in goals by a defenseman with 73, has five with four assists in the last seven games. He has two goals and an assist in his last three contests against the Coyotes.

Teammate Alexander Kerfoot, with a goal and three assists in three games, scored twice at Arizona in December.

--Field Level Media

Updated March 29, 2019

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