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After big win, Arizona Coyotes visit Edmonton Oilers on Valentine’s Day

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Can the Coyotes keep their stretch of solid play going against the Edmonton Oilers tonight?

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

The Arizona Coyotes are hot as of late, and a 5-0 win over the Calgary Flames last night makes them look even hotter. Tonight the Coyotes will have a chance to demonstrate what happens when oil meets fire as they take on the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place.

View from Arizona

Last night’s performance by the Arizona Coyotes against the Calgary Flames will no doubt leave many wondering what could have been. Arizona scored five times, which was four more than Mike Smith needed to earn the win.

It was a marked improvement for a Coyotes team that lost three in a row to Calgary in the month of December alone. The win was Arizona’s third in their last four games, with their only loss in that span coming in overtime. Arizona has scored 15 times in those four games.

Arizona still has a ways to go; the team allowed 19 shots in the first period, and their shot attempt numbers have been consistently poor even as their record improves. But Arizona is now 6-3-1 in their last ten games, and they look as though they are finally using their speed and their quickness to their advantage.

View from Edmonton

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

All those years of #HereComeTheOilers may finally be paying off.

Edmonton sits six points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings for the last guaranteed playoff spot in the Pacific Division, and seven points ahead of the first non-playoff team in the Western Conference (currently, the Calgary Flames). The Oilers are just one game behind Los Angeles and have a game in hand against Calgary.

It is a lot easier to hang in a playoff spot when you employ the league’s top point producer. Connor McDavid now has 61 points in 56 games, which puts him on pace for about 90 points this season. Now that Edmonton is getting respectable goaltending (Cam Talbot has a .920 save percentage despite appearing in 50 of Edmonton’s 56 games), the Oilers are on their way back to the playoffs.

It will be interesting to see what the Oilers do at the Trade Deadline. While the defense is generally thought of as Edmonton’s weak point, they only allow 2.54 goals per game, which is 6th best in the NHL. But their offensive production totals (2.73 goals per game and 50.74% 5v5 shot attempts) are both 14th in the league. So perhaps the need is less about defense, strictly speaking, and more about defenders who can move the puck up to their elite forwards.

Three Questions

  1. Can the Coyotes clamp down on shots allowed? - Arizona gave up 19 in the first period against Calgary, but just 17 shots the rest of the way, despite playing with a large lead for much of the game. That’s the kind of effort the Coyotes need when the score is close.
  2. What will the Coyotes get in net? - Mike Smith had a tremendous game against the Flames, with 36 saves on 36 shots. But 36 saves is still a fair amount of work, especially with another road game on the calendar tonight. Will we see Louis Domingue?
  3. Can the Coyotes keep the shot attempts close? - Arizona regularly gets out-attempted by opposing teams, but the degree to which they ultimately lose the battle matters. If the score is close, who will be getting the lion’s share of chances.

Players to Watch

Arizona - Christian Dvorak - Dvorak has four goals in his last three games, and is just one away from cracking the double-digit mark in his rookie season. Dvorak has really come into his own heading into 2017. And most importantly, he gave us this gem:

Edmonton - Leon Draisaitl - McDavid garners most of the headlines, but Edmonton’s leading goal-scorer is actually their 2014 first round pick, despite having gone goalless in his last four games. Draisaitl has really blossomed after the third overall pick in his draft got off to a rocky start. Gee, that sounds kind of familiar doesn’t it?

Injury Report

Brad Richardson has resumed skating but is still on injured reserve after breaking two bones in his leg back in November, while Lawson Crouse is considered questionable after missing last night’s game.

Edmonton has a host of players on injured reserve, including Iiro Pakarinen, Darnell Nurse, Tyler Pitlick, and Jujhar Khaira. Benoit Pouliot is not expected to play, while Kris Russell is listed as questionable after missing the last two games.

Puck Drop

Tonight’s game begins at 7 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on ESPN Phoenix 620 AM.