The Coyotes started their current three-game Canadian road trip by underachieving in Calgary, an arena they haven't won in since February 2012, but hope to right the ship in Edmonton, a place they haven't lost in regulation since November of 2011.
By the Numbers
|Phoenix Coyotes||Edmonton Oilers|
|Points||55 (5th in Pacific)||36 (7th and last in Pacific)|
|Goals per game||2.78 (12th)||2.50 (18th)|
|Goals against per game||2.96 (25th)||3.48 (30th)|
|Power play %||19.6 (9th)||17.7 (20th)|
|Penalty kill %||78.6 (26th)||81.0 (17th)|
Phoenix needs to turn scoring opportunities into goals, and soon. They are playing good hockey, but aren't capitalizing on the scoring chances they are getting and right now their opponents are. They have outshot their last five adversaries 144 to 137 but have been outscored 11 to 9 in that span.
The big problem has been the slumps that their key offensive producers currently find themselves in. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is goalless in 27 of the past 29 games, Mike Ribeiro has two goals and three assists in the past 12 games, Mikkel Boedker is goalless in the past seven games after scoring in four out of five and Captain Shane Doan only two goals in 10 games since returning from his battle with Rocky Mountain Fever. No Coyote represents the current offensive struggles more than Radim Vrbata however. It's been 13 games since he's tallied a goal and has scored in only eight of 48 total games this season. He needs to get the scoring back touch and soon.
The Oilers could be the perfect team for the Coyotes to face right now. They have earned at least a point in 11 straight contests against the Oilers, going 9-0-2 in that span. They haven't lost in regulation to Edmonton since January 25, 2011 and are 7-0-1 in their last eight games at Rexall Place.
Edmonton has struggled recently, with a record of 2-7-3 in their last 12 games. The offense has struggled since the calendar turned to 2014, as the Oilers have scored two or fewer goals in seven of the 10 games they have played in January.
They did just make a couple of trades to change up their league worst goaltending, sending Devyn Dubnyk to the Nashville Predators and acquiring Ben Scrivens from the L.A. Kings in a separate deal. Scrivens and former Coyote Iyla Bryzgalov are certainly a more talented combo than the Dubnyk/LaBarbera unit the Oilers started the season with, but will it be consistent enough to allow the Oilers to gain some ground and not end up with another top-3 draft pick is a huge question.
Keys to the Game
Create chances. The Coyotes currently rank fifth in the league in shots per game and Edmonton allows the seventh most per game. Combine that with Edmonton's unsettled goalie situation and the Yotes need to put pucks on net and actually finish.
Keep the special teams rolling. Wednesday night saw the end of the Coyotes' power play goal streak at eight games but they did create a two-game streak for shorthanded goals. The Oilers take penalties at a fairly high rate and draw them pretty well (11 in penalties per game and 6th in power play chances), so the Coyotes' special team units should see plenty of action.
Just win, baby. The Oilers aren't a good team right now. The Coyotes need to start beating teams they should be or their season will start slipping through the cracks if it hasn't already.
Players to watch
|2013 - Keith Yandle||6||28||34||-16||35|
Yandle's last game with a goal was his two goal effort against these Oilers in Glendale on New Year's Eve. He has six assists during his current five-game point streak and has totaled four goals and two assists in three games against the Oilers this season. It would be great if he could continue all these trends tonight.
|2013 - David Perron||18||17||35||-8||48|
Perron is the Oilers fourth highest scorer on the year, but has absolutely lit the Coyotes up this season. In three games, he has scored four goals and five points against Phoenix this year. Edmonton could certainly use his Coyote-killing skill as he only has one goal and one assist in the 10 games since the last time these two teams met.
Projected Starting Goaltenders
|2013 - Mike Smith||43||2474||17||15||118||2.86||1310||1192||.910||1|
After giving up four goals in a three-game stretch against the Blues, Canucks and Devils, Smith has given seven goals in the last two games against Toronto and Calgary. The Coyotes could certainly use an appearance from good Smitty tonight.
|2013 - Ilya Bryzgalov||15||832||3||7||45||3.25||468||423||.904||1|
Bryzgalov and Scrivens have alternated starts since the trade was completed. Scrivens played Tuesday against Vancouver so Bryz should be in the crease tonight in a humungous big matchup.
The Coyotes will hope to have Martin Hanzal back in the lineup Friday night after he has missed the previous two games due to a lower body injury. David Schlemko missed Wednesday's game against the Flames due to an upper body injury and his status for tonight is unknown.
The Oilers will be without the services of Nail Yakupov, who is out with a concussion, and Ales Hemsky who has an ankle injury. Philip Larsen has been out since late January with an illness, but has been practicing with the team since Monday and could get back in the lineup as soon as tonight.
Tonight's game will begin at 7:30 p.m. Arizona time. It will be televised on FSAZ+ and broadcast over the radio on KMVP 860 AM.