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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, March 4th (All times eastern)

Colorado Avalanche (36-21-6) at Phoenix Coyotes (37-22-5), 9 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Poised to make their first trip to the playoffs since 2002, the Phoenix Coyotes weren't taking any chances.

One day after making an astonishing seven trades, Phoenix will try to avoid a season-high fourth loss in a row tonight versus a Colorado Avalanche squad whose trade with the Coyotes on Wednesday has already paid dividends.

Even though they have lost three straight games in regulation for the first time this year -- and three in a row overall for just the second time this season -- the Coyotes are still fifth overall in the Western Conference and own a 10-point advantage over the ninth-seeded Calgary Flames.

Still, Tuesday's 5-2 home setback to the St. Louis Blues at Jobing.com Arena must have left a sour taste in Don Maloney's mouth, as he was the most active general manager at the trade deadline. When all was said and done, Maloney had added five players to his NHL roster while losing just two.

Phoenix was involved in some of the biggest trades of the day, getting forward Wojtek Wolski from Colorado for forwards Peter Mueller and Kevin Porter, as well as defenseman Derek Morris from Boston. Center Petteri Nokelainen (from Anaheim), defenseman Mathieu Schneider (Vancouver) and forward Lee Stempniak (Toronto) were also acquired during a busy Wednesday.

"There's no question we are night and day from where we were 24 hours ago in regards to skill, experience and grit," Maloney told Phoenix's Web site. "Our defense is now as good as anybody's, in my mind. But now we have to get the chemistry right and we have to play as a team and a group, and if we do that then we're going to be much harder (to play against)."

Morris, Wolski and Nokelainen all arrived in Phoenix on Wednesday and are expected to play tonight. Schneider and Stempniak aren't expected to arrive until later Thursday, leaving their status in doubt.

Wolski should be especially motivated to face his former club. He had 17 goals and 30 assists with Colorado this season and led the club with a plus-15 rating. His 47 points already matches Shane Doan for the most on Phoenix's roster.

The Coyotes went 0-for-6 on the power play in Tuesday's loss and haven't scored on their last 25 chances with the man advantage. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov also struggled in the setback, allowing five goals on 22 shots through two periods before being replaced in the third by Jason LaBarbera.

Mueller hadn't scored in his last eight games with Phoenix, but it took him just one contest to light the lamp with his new club. Mueller had a goal in his Colorado debut last night, while Chris Stewart added a goal and two assists in a 4-3 win over Anaheim.

"Obviously things didn't work out with Phoenix, but I'm coming to a great team in Colorado," said Mueller, who had just four goals and 17 points in 54 games with Phoenix. "I am very excited to be a part of it -- there is such great tradition here. To lead it off with a goal and a big [win], it definitely doesn't get better than that."

Colorado is hoping Mueller can flash some of his rookie form, when he scored 22 goals and 54 points in 2007-08.

Matt Duchene ended with a goal and one assist while Paul Stastny added three helpers for the Avs, who rebounded from Monday's loss to Detroit and have won five of their last seven. T.J. Galiardi also scored, while Craig Anderson made 31 saves.

The win, which snapped a three-game road slide, allowed the Avalanche to remain two points behind Vancouver for first place in the Northwest Division. Colorado is also just a point behind Phoenix in the West standings.

The Avalanche own a pair of home wins over the Coyotes this year, but have lost two straight and three of their last four at Jobing.com Arena.

03/04 11:06:03 ET


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