The Phoenix Coyotes will be playing a game rested and with momentum for the first time this season and hopefully they can use that to their advantage against the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers have a better record though at 3-2, having beaten some of better teams in the West like the Los Angeles Kings and the Vancouver Canucks and beating the Colorado Avalanche on Monday.
Recently the Coyotes have been bitten by the injury bug which has taken some of the key pieces from the team. Forward Mathew Lombardi, defenseman Rostislav Klesla, and starting goaltender Mike Smith are all currently on the Injured Reserve list and Martin Hanzal was scratched from the lineup on Monday. Monday proved that the Coyotes have what it takes to win with injuries though, provided they play good defensive hockey, limit the other teams offense, and keep shots to the outside.
The Edmonton Oilers had some very successful acquisitions during the off-season; with the first overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft they selected Nail Yakupov and snatched the highly-touted young defenseman Justin Schultz. They are still playing with first overall picks Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who help make them a very offensively gifted team, although they may lack a strong defensive core or stand out goaltending.
Five For Winning:
1. Stay disciplined. The Edmonton Oilers won their game against the Colorado Avalanche 4-1 on Monday with 4 power play goals. If the Yotes take too many penalties then the Oilers will make them pay.
2. Special Teams. The Coyotes have actually been good on the power play; they have scored goals in 5 of the 6 games, and with the Oilers' defensive issues there is a decent chance the Coyotes can get another PPG. On the other hand the penalty kill will need to be at the top of their game to stave off the high powered Edmonton offense.
3. Play physically. When the Yotes swept the Oilers last year you could tell that they were playing a very physical game, and they wore down some of the younger players who generate a lot of Edmonton's offense. Although they should definitely keep the hits clean, see Point 1, a few rough rides should benefit the Desert Dogs.
4. Shots from everyone. Although the Coyotes have done a pretty good job getting goals from everyone (only 3 Coyotes forwards have yet to tally a point), they are going to need to take every chance they can get against the Oilers. Goaltending isn't Edmonton's strong suit so you never know what is going to go in.
5. Clear the zone. With the offensive talent that the Oilers are bringing to this game it would be foolish to give them time to set up plays in the Coyotes zone. They need to be wary of that and get the puck out as soon as they can, and hopefully it will keep Edmonton off the scoreboard.
Players to Watch:
Keith Yandle played well against Nashville with a goal and 2 assists in addition to some solid defensive play. Not only are the Coyotes going to need solid defense to try to keep Edmonton off the board, they are going to need offense to close any gaps that may occur, and hopefully Yandle can fill both of those roles.
Taylor Hall currently leads the Oilers in points and has the best +/- of the team. Although the 2010 first overall draft pick isn't scoring the goals himself he is setting up the shots and earning the 7 year $42 million extension he signed last August.
Likely Starting Goalies:
#31 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes
Jun 10, 1986
Chad Johnson played well against the Nashville Predators, holding them scoreless for 60 minutes of hockey. As good as Johnson played though, he will have to be better. Edmonton will be bringing a different level of offense that Nashville isn't known for, and you can expect them to have more then 21 shots on goal.
The Oilers' SBNation site Copper and Blue recently did a post recently about the Oilers backup goaltender situation, and they briefly glossed over the primary goaltender's current .907 save percentage, which is currently 15th in the league. Devan Dubnyk has started every game the Oilers have played this season and has a 3.18 goals against average and is 3-2
Mike Smith, Matthew Lombardi and Rostislav Klesla are all on the injured reserve list. Martin Hanzal sat out on Monday so it is possible he will not be skating.