The Coyotes' great Canadian roadtrip continues tonight in the frozen tundra of Edmonton, Alberta as they take on the slumping Oilers. The Coyotes will look to win their fifth straight game after taking out the Flames on Wednesday night. While the Coyotes didn't play their strongest game, Ilya Bryzgalov was a beast in goal as kept the team in the game through a rough first period. After that the Coyotes found enough offense to pull in front and were responsible enough defensively to slow down the charge of the Calgary offense that had been presssuring them. Bryz had a shutout going late into the third, but didn't have a chance on the one goal agains.t In general the Coyotes scorers have started to find a groove and have gotten the bounces going there way when they had been against them for most of the year.
The Oilers on the other hand have really taken a nose dive of late. The team had hopes that the season would play out like the preseason did with the Oilers pulling out some wins in games that maybe they shouldn't have, but they've instead done exactly what they have in recent seasons and been pretty terrible. Currently the worst team in the west, injury problems, a lack of experience and and a goalie situation that has the team currently paying 4 goalies NHL wages haven't helped things. Nikolai Khabibulin is out with a groin injury which means... I don't know what that means entirely. It means that the goalie position should be even worse than usual for the Oil who have a poor defense and even less offense as they have the worst goal differential in the league at a -29 through 17 games. That means they're giving up and average of 1.7 goals more than they score per game. That's just brutal.
Five for Winning
Don't look past this game - The Coyotes have the Canucks coming up on Sunday and with the Oilers looking pretty weak at the moment it'd be easy to overlook them. The Coyotes are much improved lately, but not so much so that they can take anyone lightly.
Come Out Strong - The first period of the Calgary game was simply awful. Taking a penalty seconds into the game, getting absolutely dominated on the shots and scoring chances, that's not a way to start a game. Ilya Bryzgalov kept the team in it, but it'd be easier to not watch your goalie breakdancing to get a win. Push the play offensively intead of waiting until the 2nd to wake up.
Keep your foot on the gas - The Coyotes have been coughing up goals late in games with consistency lately. The team gets out in front and then rather than controlling the play plays prevent defense, but does it poorly. Last Friday, after scoring the empty netter to go up 5-2 the Coyotes game up 2 goals in the last minute of play to hold on 5-4, Then against the Blues gave one up with less than two minutes remaining to bring St. Louis within one and gave up a shutout costing goal in Calgary late in the 3rd as well. Sure the Coyotes managed to win all those games, but if the team continues to give up late goals it will bite them eventually.
Special Teams Switch - Typically reliant on a strong PK unit to balance out the traditionally weak power play the reverse has been true lately. While ranked 18th in the league on the year, the power play has been performing at a 30% success rate over the last four while the PK unit has been less than spectacular at 77% over the same span. The team needs to find more balance on the kill as it's been a weak point. It hasn't helped that they seem to always take a weak penalty at the exact worst time.
Keep Playing Coyotes Hockey - The team has been better about focusing on the things that worked for them last year, they just haven't done it for 60 minutes. They need to play their game and not get caught chasing the fast young players the Oilers have. The Coyotes have great team speed, but do not want to get stuck sprinting up and down all night.
The Desert Ninja hasn't scored in few games, but it hasn't been for lack of trying. He's made a lot of nice moves and has attacked the net, but the puck just hasn't found it's way in. TOnight could be a good night to make the hard work payoff.
With a team worst -11, whatever line Cogliano is on is the one the Coyotes need to attack. He's been unable to win faceoffs with any regularity with 42% in the circle, has 4 total points on the year and is still averaging almost 16 minutes a game. He's not doing well and the Coyotes need to exploit that.