If the Phoenix Coyotes hope to make it into the post season their margin of error has decreased to almost nothing. They currently sit in the eleventh place in the west having been leapfrogged last night by the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Dallas Stars, however the fact that they are only 3 points behind the eighth place Detroit Red Wings does give them a bit of hope. They still have 9 games left to play, but they are going to need to fix their road game issues if they want to gain a playoff berth.
The Coyotes last game against the Vancouver Canucks was underwhelming at best. Despite some flashes of good hockey they failed to score a single goal, and were restricted to only 19 shots on goal. Against Edmonton, Phoenix is probably not going to face the same type of stifling defense they did against Vancouver. In order to win they are going to need to have a simple road game, something that they have had difficulty playing this season with their 4-9-5 road record.
The Edmonton Oilers are also hoping for a playoff spot, although with 39 points, 4 behind Detroit, the chances of that happening seem pretty slim. The Oilers have dropped their past 3 games and are currently 2-3-0 in their last five, however they are 3-1-1 in their past 5 at home. The team that the Coyotes swept last season has also beaten the Coyotes in the both of their previous contests, although both games were tight with Edmonton winning by one goal both times.
Five For Winning
1. Shoot everything. One of the reasons that the Coyotes weren't able to score against Vancouver is very few pucks got on net. The Coyotes should try to throw everything they can on net and hopefully get a few lucky breaks or a good rebound.
2. Power play unit. This has been a problem for the Coyotes for a while, but if the other team is going to go down a man the Coyotes need to make them pay. Dubnyk may be the man to allow the first Coyotes power play goal in what seems to be forever. He let in 2 against LA last Saturday.
3. Discipline. Edmonton has a talented team that makes other teams pay when they are on the power play (22.7%). The best way to stop them is to not take any penalties.
4. Tighten up passing. This was one of the biggest problems in the last game, the Coyotes had a lot of sloppy passes. This slowed down the Coyotes game, and it led to the puck being intercepted a few times.
5. Win. The Coyotes need two points bad if they want to stay in the race.
Likely Starting Goaltenders
#41 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes
Mar 22, 1982
Mike Smith played great against the Canucks, even if the team in front of him didn't, stopping 64 of 65 shots. In the two games since he returned from injury, he has only allowed 1 goal. He seems to be playing like he did last season where he carried the team into the playoffs.
#40 / Goalie / Edmonton Oilers
May 04, 1986
Devan Dubnyk has played well for the Oilers of late, allowing only 8 goals in his past 5 starts which includes a 3-2-0 record.
Players to Watch
#36 / Left Wing / Phoenix Coyotes
Aug 12, 1986
Although he isn't necessarily lighting the lamp every game, Rob Klinkhammer has been one of the highlights on the Phoenix Coyotes team as of late. He seems to moved comfortably into his role and is playing it well, although what else would you expect from the best name in hockey?
#89 / Center / Edmonton Oilers
Aug 10, 1989
Sam Gagner has assists in 3 of the last 5 games and a goal last Wednesday in the last game that Edmonton won. He also has the most goals on the Edmonton team, although Taylor Hall leads the team in points.
Remember to come back later today for our game day thread and you can head over to Copper & Blue for their side of the story.