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Arizona Coyotes rematch against Edmonton Oilers in rare matinee

The Coyotes don’t play afternoon games very often, but they will today up in Alberta.

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Edmonton Oilers Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re feeling a slight sense of deja vu heading into today’s game between the Arizona Coyotes and Edmonton Oilers, you aren’t alone.

For the second time in a row the Coyotes and Oilers will square off, but this time, it’s in Alberta. Arizona will attempt to keep a 24 game head-to-head point streak alive after a hard fought contest in Arizona on Friday night.

View from Arizona

A 24 game point streak against any team in today’s NHL is nothing short of incredible. Even with the well-documented struggles of the Oilers over the years, there is enough parity and unpredictability in hockey to make coming away with a win or a point every time for more than four years in a row immensely improbable.

And yet here the Coyotes are. Although Arizona is tied with the New York Islanders for 30th in the NHL this season, the Coyotes have been considerably more mercurial in-game, even if their results don’t reflect that. As the second wave of young players settles in, perhaps the Coyotes will find some of that consistency they’ve been looking for.

View from Edmonton

For more on the Edmonton Oilers, check out The Copper & Blue

Before Friday night’s loss, the Oilers were on a three game winning streak with victories against the Dallas Stars, Chicago Blackhawks, and Colorado Avalanche. Though the Oilers have cooled off some since a 7-2-0 October start, the points they banked that month have allowed them to stay on top of the Pacific Division.

In some ways, the Oilers are reminiscent of the Stars’ teams of the past few seasons. Nobody denies their offensive talent, but there are lingering question marks on defense and in goal.

But there is one key figure that suggests the Oilers are genuinely turning the corner. In 2013-14, Edmonton was 28th the league in Corsi For Percentage at 5v5 with a dreadful 44.3%. This season, they are 9th at 51.5%. The Oilers are looking up, and if they can find a way to add pieces on defense, playoff hockey in Edmonton may not be that far off.

Three Questions

  1. Can the Coyotes be more good than lucky this time? - Had Connor McDavid’s last shot in overtime come 0.1 seconds earlier, the Coyotes would have missed out on that second point. Arizona can’t rely on that kind of luck every night.
  2. Will the Coyotes replicate their first period success? - Arizona peppered Cam Talbot with 22 shots in the first period before easing up in the second. It took a great breakaway by arguably the best player in the NHL and a blown defensive assignment to give the Oilers a two goal lead in the first. The Coyotes need to keep their foot on the gas the entire game.
  3. How conservative will the Coyotes be on defense? - Speaking of that blown defensive assignment, is the back-end youth for Arizona going to be more reluctant to attack in the offensive zone? Anthony DeAngelo missed an assignment on the second Edmonton goal, but will he (or perhaps Jakob Chychrun) pass up chances to jump into the play for fear of creating an odd-man rush the other direction?

Players to Watch

Arizona - Max Domi - Domi scored Arizona’s first goal on Friday night, and has six goals and two assists in six career games against Edmonton overall. Of all the teams he’s played, Domi likes playing the Oilers.

Edmonton - Leon Draisaitl - There is a standing requirement to watch Connor McDavid whenever the Oilers are playing, but for variety’s sake Leon Draisaitl also is worth paying attention to. Draisaitl was Edmonton’s 3rd overall pick in 2014, and he ended up getting returned to major-junior in his rookie season before putting up 19 goals and 32 assists the following year. This year, he has seven goals and nine assists. He is the kind of player to look towards to see why Arizona is approaching Dylan Strome the way they are.

Injury Report

Arizona has placed both Louis Domingue and Brad Richardson on injured reserve, but are otherwise fully healthy.

Edmonton is without Mark Fayne and Brandon Davidson, whom they lost towards the beginning of the season. Still on IR from last year are Andrew Ference and Iiro Pakarinen.

Puck Drop

Today’s game gets underway at 1 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona Plus and listen on 92.3 FM.