Today's contest marks the first of three games in the Phoenix Coyotes' Western Canada series. Coming off of two solid wins at home the Coyotes will look to continue the streak and start their road trip on the right foot. Their first test will be Nail Yakupov and rest of the youngsters from Edmonton.
To help get the wheels in motion, Phoenix will be reunited with forward Matthew Lombardi. Lombardi, who is still trying to find his groove after battling injuries in the previous two seasons was sidelined with a shoulder injury after taking a hit in the January 24 game against the San Jose Sharks and was expected to be out four to six weeks made a quick recovery.
Also, coming back from IR for the Oilers will be Ryan Jones. Jones, who suffered a serious eye injury in a New Year's Eve pick up game with friends will be playing his first of the season today. Itching to get back in the line up, the 28-year old Miami University alumni had 17 goals and 33 points in 79 games last season. But the biggest news of the game will be the absence of Taylor Hall. Hall was slapped with a two game suspension after his knee-on-knee hit on Wild's Cal Clutterbuck in Thursday's game. The hole the former first rounder has left on the roster will be a major one for the already struggling Edmonton Oilers.
Five for Winning:
Firing Squad: Shooting the puck has been better this year than most (4th in the league in shots per game) for the Coyotes, the continuation of this trend can reward the desert team handsomely as neither Edmonton Oilers' goaltenders have been stellar this season.
Defense: It'll be important to not have Mike Smith overworked in his first of three road games. While the Oilers haven't been lighting the lamp as much lately they do generate plenty of good scoring chances, and its up to the Dmen to make sure these chances don't become goals.
Be Physical: The young Oilers team will need to be cut off in every facet of the game. A heavy forecheck and back check will be the only thing to slow down this high flying team.
Discipline: After giving up too many penalties in the game against the Blue Jackets, the Coyotes did much better job staying out of the box against the Flames. It'll be important to stay out of the box in this match up as well as. The Oilers are 7th in the league in power play goals.
Special Teams: This is one area the Oilers have an advantage. The Coyotes are 18th in the league on the road (15.4%) with the extra man, while the Oilers are 9th in the league (85.7%) at home on the penalty kill and 4th overall in the league (87.7%). The Oilers home power play is (28.6%) is 4th in the league, while the Coyotes PK road is 20th (78.3%). If Phoenix can execute better than they have up to this point in the season on special teams and keep the special team's differential even they are likely to win the game.
Likely Starting Goaltenders:
Players to Watch:
His first game back after a scary eye injury, Ryan Jones will look to start gathering points as he's already missed the first third of the season.
Also returning to the line up, Vrbata leads the team in points (12) and after being gone the last couple of games the Coyotes will need him to return to form quickly.
Derek Morris - Upper Body
Martin Hanzal - Upper Body
Radim Vrbata - Lower Body
Shawn Horcoff - Upper Body
Lennart Petrell - Upper Body
Andy Sutton - Lower Body
Anton Lander - Lower Body