GLENDALE, Ariz. – After being shut out for the second time in seven home games on Thursday night, the Phoenix Coyotes will be looking for an infusion of offense Saturday when they take on one of the NHL’s hottest teams in the Edmonton Oilers.
It won't hurt to have their No. 1 goalie in the lineup either. Mike Smith is 4-0-1 and has allowed only 12 goals, and he will be back between the pipes after sitting out Thursday because the team was playing on back-to-back nights. Jason LaBarbera played well, but couldn't do everything in a 2-0 loss to Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators. The Coyotes are now just 3-3-1 at home this season, where they have played seven of their first 12 games and are in the midst of another four-contest homestand.
The Edmonton Oilers are on a six-game winning streak and Nikolai Khabibulin, a Scottsdale resident and the Coyotes goalie for the first four years the team was in Phoenix, is coming off a shutout winThursday in Los Angeles. He will sit out tonight, however, as Edmonton goes with Devan Dubnyk.
The Coyotes had their three-game winning streak smothered by Rinne and the Predators and there will be at least one shake-up to the forwards when Cal O’Reilly, obtained from Nashville a week ago but battling a groin injury, will make his Phoenix debut. To make room for O’Reilly on the active roster, the Coyotes shipped center Andy Miele – who was scoreless but showed promise in a five-game stint with the team – back to Portland of the American Hockey League.
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said center Martin Hanzal, who missed the loss to the Predators with a lowe- body injury suffered late in Wednesday’s win at Colorado, will be a game-time decision. But the Coyotes have five days off before they play again after tonight and the team could give the valuable Hanzal the full five days to recover.
Kyle Chipchura, who was brought up from Portland on Thursday and played against Nashville, would be the fourth center for Phoenix tonight.
Edmonton, a team picked by many to be among the worst in the League, is tied for second in the Western Conference with an 8-2-2 record and leads the League in goals against with 18 in their first 12 games. Khabibulin has been a big part of that, but the Oilers also lead the League in blocked shots and Ladislav Smid leads all individuals with 45.
Here are the projected lineups for both teams:
Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle
Ryan Smyth - Shawn Horcoff - Ryan Jones
Magnus Paajarvi - Eric Belanger - Sam Gagner
Ben Eager - Anton Lander - Lennart Petrell
Ladislav Smid - Tom Gilbert
Corey Potter - Jeff Petry
Theo Peckham - Colten Teubert
Lauri Korpikoski - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Ray Whitney - Boyd Gordon - Radim Vrbata
Taylor Pyatt - Cal O’Reilly - Mikkel Boedker
Raffi Torres - Kyle Chipchura - Patrick O'Sullivan
Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Rostislav Klesla - David Schlemko
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Adrian Aucoin