The end of the preseason is nigh.
Tonight the Arizona Coyotes will play their second to last preseason tilt of 2014 against the Edmonton Oilers, a team that for the past several years has seemed to ice a roster full of guys who still think it's preseason in December.
Matchup at a Glance
|Arizona Coyotes||Edmonton Oilers|
|Points||89 (4th Pacific)||67 (7th Pacific)|
|Goals Per Game||2.56 (20th)||2.43 (25th)|
|Goals Against Per Game||2.73 (18th)||3.26 (30th)|
|Power Play Percentage||19.9% (4th)||17.0% (21st)|
|Penalty Kill Percentage||79.0% (26th)||82.1% (15th)|
|5v5 Fenwick For %||49.96% (16th)||44.13% (28th)|
|PDO (Sh% + SV%)||99.7 (17th)||99.53 (21st)|
The View from Arizona
Arizona's preseason has gone about as well as one could hope for; the team is 4-0-2 (will all but one tilt on the road), and the Coyotes just came off of a convincing 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. After a day of practice, the team left Vancouver to visit Northern Alberta.
Many of the question marks left for the Coyotes have to do with line combinations and defensive pairings more so than competition for spots (though what the team chooses to do with Justin Hodgman, Lucas Lessio, and Max Domi will be fascinating to watch). Dave Tippett is expecting to shuffle liens around to find what sticks, and will even reportedly try Sam Gagner on the wing instead of down the middle at some point this week.
The defense is all but set at this point; Matt Smaby is the only defensemen that did not dress in Sedona Red last year. But that still leaves nine defensemen for seven spots (Michalek, OEL, Yandle, Murphy, Stone, Schlemko, Summers, Gormley, and Smaby), so something will have to give, and soon.
The View from Edmonton
Edmonton did little this week to shake their reputation that the front office running the club is inept, as outstanding training camp invite Vladimir Tkachev was ruled ineligible to sign the entry-level contract the Oilers offered him under the rules of the CBA. Granted, the CBA is not exactly light reading, but given the CBA governs nearly every aspect of business in the NHL, it's probably a good idea to have someone check with it to make sure what the Oilers want to do is legal.
All that aside, the Edmonton team that skates this year is going to look similar to the one that did last year, with a few differences. The Oilers completely revamped their goaltending last season, replacing the tandem of Devan Dubnyk (now a Coyote) and Ilya Bryzgalov/Jason LaBarbera with Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth.
Up front, the Oilers replaced Sam Gagner (also a Coyote) with Tampa Bay's Teddy Purcell and the one time New York Rangers forward and all-time advanced stats darling Benoit Pouliot. The defense remains largely the same (which is to say, bad), with the only major changes being the addition of Nikita Nikitin from the Columbus Blue Jackets and Mark Fayne from the New Jersey Devils to replace Ladislav Smid.
While Coyotes fans will be able to see 3rd overall pick Leon Draisaitl suit up tonight, not playing will be Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nail Yakupov. So tonight's matchup is all about the depth for Edmonton.
Keys to the Game
- Strong Finishes - The Coyotes managed to control play against the Canucks for most of the game. When Vancouver got close, Arizona turned up the offensive pressure, and a late goal from David Moss left no doubt about the final result. That is how the Coyotes will have to win games this season.
- Get the Chemistry Right - There is not a whole lot more whittling down of the training camp roster to do, which means it is absolutely crucial that the locks and the borderline guys start generating some chemistry with their linemates.
- Prove You Can Beat the Worst - Edmonton is a perennial disappointment that many are picking to be in the Connor McDavid sweepstakes at the end of the year. This is the kind of team the Coyotes are supposed to be able to beat, and will have to beat if they want a shot at the playoffs.
Joe Vitale had a goal and an assist in one of the most impressive games he's played all preseason. That signing could be a real gem by Don Maloney.
Justin Schultz is second on the Oilers in preseason points, and is a potent offensive presence on the blueline.
Sam Gagner was kept out of Monday's game against Vancouver with some upper body injuries (undisclosed). He practiced yesterday and will likely be a game time decision today.
The Oilers have no substantial injuries to report.
Tonight's game begins at 6 PM Arizona time. There will not be a broadcast in the Arizona market on either TV or the radio.