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Old 01-02-2008, 07:43 PM   #140
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Default Coyotes-Avalanche Jan 2, 2008, 9:00 PM EST

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The Phoenix Coyotes are building mainly with young players as they attempt to rebound from four straight losing seasons. Making a few more trades like the one that brought them Radim Vrbata would speed up that process.

Vrbata and the Coyotes look to match a season high with their fifth straight road victory Wednesday night when they complete a home-and-home series against the Colorado Avalanche.

Phoenix (18-18-1) made what appeared to be a minor deal when it acquired Vrbata from Chicago on Aug. 11 in exchange for center Kevyn Adams. Vrbata had 14 goals in 77 games in his only full season with the Blackhawks, and never scored more than 18 in a season since doing it as a rookie with Colorado in 2001-02.

Vrbata, though, is on pace for the best season of his career, ranking first on the team with 16 goals and second with 28 points.

Adams, meanwhile, had one point in 15 games for Chicago before he was lost for the season with a knee injury.

Vrbata scored twice on the power play in regulation and netted the deciding goal in the shootout, lifting the Coyotes to a 4-3 victory Monday over the Avalanche (21-15-3).

"In recent games, I felt like the puck was not bouncing my way," Vrbata said. "It seemed to find my stick. As a player, you don't try and change anything. You just hope you're in the right place."

Steven Reinprecht also scored in regulation as Phoenix salvaged the final game of a four-game homestand after losing the first three.

"We have many good days ahead of us," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "There is a long road ahead of us, but there really is a light at the end of the tunnel."

Phoenix scored twice on the power play Monday after it was 2-for-21 with the man advantage in the previous five games.

"We really worked hard on the power play," Gretzky said. "We've tried to simplify it, and make sure everyone understands the responsibilities and the work ethic. Just as important is your skill level."

The Coyotes have won two of their last four meetings against the Avalanche - both in shootouts - after losing seven straight in the series.

Colorado had been 9-0-0 with one tie in its last 10 home games against Phoenix before that run ended with a 5-4 shootout loss on Jan. 26. The Avalanche haven't lost in regulation in 17 straight matchups with the Coyotes, dating to a 5-3 loss in Phoenix on March 30, 2002.

Monday's loss was the third straight for the Avalanche, matching a season high. They haven't dropped four in a row since Nov. 7-15, 2006.

"We'll take the point," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We're coming off two disappointing losses at home and down 3-1 in this one, getting the one point isn't too bad."

Although they have lost two straight at the Pepsi Center, the Avalanche still own one of the league's best home records (15-5-0).

Paul Stastny, tied for the team lead with 15 goals and Colorado's leader with 44 points, has no goals in his last six games. He has four goals and three assists in seven career games against the Coyotes.

Peter Budaj, who made 23 saves in regulation and overtime on Monday, is 6-0-2 with a 2.59 goals-against average in eight games against Phoenix.
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