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National Hockey League

NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Friday, February 28th (All times Eastern)

Phoenix Coyotes (27-21-11) at Colorado Avalanche (37-17-5), 9 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Phoenix Coyotes try to grab hold of a playoff spot on Friday night as they visit the Colorado Avalanche.

The Coyotes picked up a point last night with a 3-2 shootout setback to the Winnipeg Jets, and are one point behind the idle Dallas Stars, who beat the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference.

Phoenix got regulation goals from Martin Hanzal and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, while Mike Smith made 27 saves in his club's second straight setback.

After the first four shooters missed to open the shootout, Devin Setoguchi ripped a shot past Smith's blocker to put the Jets on top, but Antoine Vermette answered for Phoenix at the other end.

Olli Jokinen then flipped a wrister over Smith's stick-side before Ondrej Pavelec poke-checked the puck away from Mike Ribeiro to lift the Jets to victory.

"I thought we deserved to win that game," Smith said. "You know a couple bad breaks and goals in our end, a couple posts, and that's the difference."

It is unknown if Smith will the start on back-to-back nights or if backup Thomas Greiss will get the call.

Both have good career numbers in this matchup. Smith is 8-1-3 with a 1.85 goals against average and .940 save percentage in 12 previous meetings with the Avs, while Greiss is 4-0-0 with a 1.25 GAA and .963 save percentage in four encounters.

The Avalanche have lost three of four and sit third in the Central Division, five points back of co-leaders Chicago and St. Louis.

Colorado came out of the Olympic break with a 6-4 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday, getting a goal and an assist from both Jamie McGinn and Ryan O'Reilly. P.A. Parenteau and Andre Benoit also scored and backup Jean- Sebastien Giguere made 22 saves on 27 shots faced.

"No one is perfect after two weeks off," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "But we've been working hard and you don't want to let a game like this affect you, especially because I think there are a lot of positives. I think we need to come back on Friday (against Phoenix) with the same attitude that we had today."

Semyon Varlamov, who played for Russia during the recent Sochi Olympics, will start tonight and is 3-5-1 with a 3.27 GAA and .890 save percentage in his career versus the Coyotes.

Defenseman Erik Johnson will serve the second and final game of his suspension for a slash versus the New York Islanders before the break.

The Avs and Coyotes have split two prior meetings this season, with each club notching a win on the road.

Phoenix has won five of the last seven encounters overall as well as two straight and five of the past six played in Colorado.

02/28 10:50:20 ET

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