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At the Rink: Coyotes at Oilers

by Derek Van Diest / NHL.com

EDMONTONEdmonton Oilers left wing Taylor Hall will return to the lineup Sunday against the Arizona Coyotes.

Hall missed six games with an MCL sprain in his right knee, sustained crashing into the goal post Nov. 1 in a 3-2 loss against the Vancouver Canucks.

“It’s been a long time since I played, it feels like,” Hall said. “It’s tough watching, but I thought the guys have played well. I’m just hoping to get back and contribute any way I can.”

At the time of his injury, Hall was leading the Oilers in scoring with six goals and four assists in 11 games. The Oilers' record was 2-3-1 without their star winger.

“I only missed about a week of skating, so I feel like my conditioning never really diminished by any means,” Hall said. “But I’m sure once I get out there and get a couple of shifts under my belt, maybe it’ll be a different story just because you haven’t had that pressure and that game situation. I’m confident that my injury has healed well. I’m going to go out there and try to play my game.”

In his absence, Oilers left wing Benoit Pouliot moved up to play on the top line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

Oilers coach Dallas Eakins did not reveal at the morning skate whether Hall would immediately go back to the top line. Eakins did say Hall would not be eased back into the lineup.

“He’ll probably play on a number of lines [Sunday] to be honest,” Eakins said. “He’s an extremely fit kid, he takes pride in that and I don’t see easing a horse like that back in the game. We will get him up, see where he’s at and let him go.”

Pouliot has filled in admirably in Hall’s absence, with two goals and two assists in his past three games.

“To be honest, even though I’m playing [Sunday], I don’t really know what the lines will be, I don’t think Dallas has figured it out yet,” Hall said. “But whoever it is, I’m sure at some point I’ll be playing with those two [Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle] again, whether it’s on the power play or whatever it is. They’ve been playing well with [Pouliot] and he’s doing great right now. I don’t know if they want to mess that up or not. I’m just going to keep trying to contribute wherever I can.”

The Coyotes won the previous game between the teams, 7-4 on Oct. 15 in Arizona. They have earned at least a point against Edmonton in 14 consecutive games.

Coyotes center Sam Gagner will play his first regular season game in Edmonton since being traded in the offseason. Gagner, 25, played seven seasons with the Oilers.

“It was nice that we played here in preseason, so I got to come back and feel it from this side [visitors’ dressing room] a little bit,” Gagner said. “I’m sure [Sunday] is going to be exciting. At the end of the day, I know its cliché, but it’s just another game for us that we have to find a way to get the two points. We’re 1-1 on the road trip and it would be nice to go home with a winning record.”

Former Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk will start for the Coyotes. Dubnyk made 35 saves for his first shutout with Arizona in a 5-0 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday.

“It wasn’t as weird as I thought it would be to play them [Oilers] in the preseason,” Dubnyk said. “But it was good to get out there and taste game situation against that jersey that I’m not used to being on the other side of. It was good to get that one out of the way. It’ll obviously be more important [Sunday], but it doesn’t feel strange at all.”

Goaltender Ben Scrivens will start for Edmonton.

Here are the projected lineups:

COYOTES

Lauri Korpikoski - Antoine Vermette - Mikkel Boedker

Tobias RiederMartin Hanzal - Martin Erat

Rob Klinkhammer - Sam Gagner - Shane Doan

Brandon McMillan - Joe Vitale - B.J. Crombeen

Keith Yandle - Connor Murphy

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Zbynek Michalek

Brandon Gormley - Michael Stone

Devan Dubnyk

Mike Smith

Scratched: Chris Summers, Kyle Chipchura, Lucas Lessio

Injured: David Moss (upper body)

OILERS

Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

Benoit PouliotMark ArcobelloNail Yakupov

Teddy PurcellLeon DraisaitlDavid Perron

Matt Hendricks - Boyd Gordon - Jesse Joensuu

Nikita NikitinMark Fayne

Andrew Ference - Jeff Petry

Keith AulieJustin Schultz

Ben Scrivens

Viktor Fasth

Scratched: Luke Gazdic, Martin Marincin

Injured: None

Status report: The Oilers don’t have a win against a Western Conference opponent this season (0-7-1). With Hall returning to the lineup, Edmonton assigned right wing Iiro Pakarinen and defenseman Oscar Klefbom to the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League. Starting Sunday, 20 of Edmonton’s next 22 games are against Western Conference teams.

Who’s hot: Nugent-Hopkins is on a three-game point streak and has at least a point in 10 of his past 12 games. Hanzal scored a hat trick in the win against Vancouver on Friday.

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