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Arizona Coyotes face Edmonton Oilers with much to prove

Are we seeing a true Coyotes turnaround?

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Edmonton Oilers Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

It is perhaps of the slightest consolation that the Arizona Coyotes have gone from bad to merely inconsistent. But given how tough December was, merely inconsistent offers more hope than not.

As Arizona begins a three game road trip tonight with a game against the Edmonton Oilers, the Arizona Coyotes have a chance to prove that their January results are not just the product of chance, but that they are finally making progress on the offensive and defensive sides of the ice.

View from Arizona

A two game win streak came to an end on Saturday night against the Anaheim Ducks as the ever elusive Arizona Coyotes offense disappeared yet again.

The loss undercuts what has otherwise been a better defensive showing over the past few games from the Coyotes; Arizona has not allowed more than three goals in any game in the new year. That’s not exactly a high bar to clear, but it is a step up from some of their showings during their eight game losing streak in December.

Arizona now gets a clean slate against the Oilers; their long points streak against Edmonton came to an end last month when the Oilers defeated the Coyotes 3-2 on December 21st at Gila River Arena.

View from Edmonton

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

Is it playoff time in Edmonton?

The Oilers remain in second place in the Pacific Division, one point clear of San Jose for the last guaranteed playoff spot and five points clear of Los Angeles for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. Edmonton is 5-3-2 in their last ten games, which means they’re doing more than enough to maintain their place in the playoff picture.

It should not be understated how important Connor McDavid is to the success of the Oilers; McDavid has 50 points in 45 games to lead the NHL, and has a 54.8 5v5 Corsi For Percentage on a team that averages 48.8%. When McDavid is on the ice, everybody plays better. And Edmonton is in playoff position because of it.

Three Questions

  1. Will it be feast or famine for Arizona’s offense? - After scoring four goals in the first period against the Jets, the Coyotes could not put the puck in the net at any point over the subsequent five periods of hockey. Can they find more consistency?
  2. Can Arizona hit the net? - On Saturday the Coyotes missed more shot attempts wide than they had on goal. Can the Coyotes cut down on the number of errant pucks?
  3. Can the power play match the penalty kill? - Arizona’s penalty kill has been excellent of late; the Coyotes have killed off their last 15 penalties. Their power play has not been of similar quality. Can Arizona get at least one power play goal tonight?

Players to Watch

Arizona - Radim Vrbata - Vrbata is one goal away from becoming Arizona’s first double-digit goal scorer on the season. And with a little over a month until the Trade Deadline and an incredibly cheap one-year, $1 million contract, Vrbata is easily one of the names that could be on the move.

Edmonton - Patrick Maroon - Patrick Maroon has blown past his career high in goals this season by scoring 18 in just 45 games. He had four goals in his last four games, and his just nine points away from a career high in that category as well.

Injury Report

Brad Richardson, Max Domi, and Ryan White remain on injured reserve, while Jordan Martinook is considered questionable to play tonight. Alexander Burmistrov has worked through his visa issues and is working to get back up to speed as a skater. Dave Tippett hopes to see Burmistrov play tonight.

Iiro Pekarinen and Andrew Ference remain on injured reserve from October, while Darnell Nurse and Tyler Pitlick are both out until at least March. Adam Larsson and Jujhar Khaira are both considered questionable for tonight’s game.

Puck Drop

Action gets underway at 7 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona Plus or listen on ESPN 620 AM.