Coyotes continue surge toward playoffs against Oilers
Monday, 02.08.2010 / 7:30 PMOILERS (18-33-6) at COYOTES (35-19-5)
Edmonton 2-7-1; Phoenix 7-3-0
Third of four meetings this season. The teams have split a pair of games at Rexall Place in Edmonton. Jeff Deslauriers stopped all 36 shots for his first career shutout as the Oilers won 4-0 on Nov. 23. Shane Doan
scored twice, including a power-play goal 1:37 into overtime, to give the Coyotes a 5-4 win on Jan. 5.
Their six-game winning streak came to an end Saturday in Dallas, but coach Dave Tippett has the Coyotes in excellent position to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2002. In fact, Phoenix begins play Monday tied for fourth in the Western Conference with Pacific Division rival Los Angeles, in the battle for home ice in the first round.
This is the midway point in a five-game road trip for Edmonton, which dropped the first two in Minnesota and Colorado. Like many of its losses this season, the Oilers saw the opportunity for a better fate Saturday, trailing just 1-0 into the latter stages of the third period. But they would fall 3-0 as the Avalanche added two late goals, one an empty-netter.
"We compete well with some teams for a while, then we disappear," Pat Quinn said. "As a coach you start thinking we should have 15, 16 more wins based on how we've played some nights, but we don't. That margin between winning and losing is eluding us right now. We find ways to lose, not ways to win."
Four of the six victories in the Phoenix win streak came on the road, but the Coyotes have also taken their last three at Jobing.com Arena, where the fans are starting to flock again as they realize their team is for real. A near sellout crowd watched their 3-2 win over the Rangers on Jan. 30. After beating the Central Division-leading Blackhawks on Friday, the Coyotes ran out of gas in a 4-0 loss to the Stars on Saturday.
"Our whole group looked tired tonight without a doubt," Tippett said. "(Friday) night's game took a huge toll on us. We went to overtime, then late travel. And you've got a fresh team sitting here, you know they're going to come hard at you."
In his past five starts in the Edmonton net, Deslauriers recorded a 1-0 shutout against Philadelphia, the second of his career, and allowed two goals in three others. … Phoenix counterpart Ilya Bryzgalov had won four straight prior to Saturday's defeat, including a shutout against Nashville, his career-high sixth of the season.
The Oilers have a lengthy list of banged-up bodies, though defensemen Steve Staios and Ladislav Smid
are possibilities to be activated Monday. Both suffered concussions. Forward Sam Gagner
is day-to-day with a knee injury. Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin
(back), defenseman Sheldon Souray (hand) and forwards Ales Hemsky
(shoulder) and Ryan Stone (knee) are all on injured reserve.
Coyotes forward Scottie Upshall injured his right knee and will miss the rest of the season, while defenseman Kurt Sauer
(head) is also out.
Edmonton has lost nine straight on the road, all in regulation, since a 5-3 win in St. Louis on Dec. 11. That ties a franchise record originally set in 2007. … Phoenix is 21-8-2 at home this season, including 15-3-2 in its last 20 at Jobing.com Arena.
Both teams come off shutout losses and are in the bottom third of the League in offense. But the Coyotes have been the far more defensively sound team this season, and the proof is in the standings.