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At the Rink: Oilers at Coyotes

by Jerry Brown

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Arizona Coyotes coach Dave Tippett is now confident No. 1 goalie Mike Smith is ready to start the season. It just took an extra week to get there.

Smith said he felt uncomfortable in the net after allowing six goals, four of them in the first 15 minutes, in a 6-2 season-opening loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 9. Smith watched backup Devan Dubnyk helped the Coyotes to a 3-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday and spent several days with goalie coach Sean Burke working out the kinks.

Now Smith is ready for a redo and will start Wednesday against the Edmonton Oilers, who are looking for a reboot themselves after an 0-2-1 start punctuated by a 6-1 loss to the Kings on Tuesday in Los Angeles. Tippett will also give veteran forward Kyle Chipchura and defenseman into the lineup for the first time this season, with forward B.J. Crombeen and defenseman Chris Summers sitting as healthy scratches.

Smith is 8-1-1 lifetime against the Oilers.

"He's had a good couple of practice here, so Smitty will go," Tippett said. "He's looked sharp the last few days. He and Burkie have been working right from (the Winnipeg loss) … work to make him feel good."

While Smith regrouped on his own, the rest of the Coyotes bounced back against the Kings, wiping out an early 2-0 deficit and winning on Oliver Ekman-Larsson's goal with 14 seconds left in overtime. Arizona closes out a four-game homestand to start the season Saturday against the St. Louis Blues and wants to bank some points before hitting the road.

Arizona not only defeated the Kings, they played the kind of game that is a blueprint for their success. They limited the Kings to three shots in a 27-minute span and gave Dubnyk a good look at most of the shots all night. They were more responsible and reactive in their zone and forced penalties rather than being forced to take them.

"We played to our identity and we want to continue to do that," Tippett said.

Dubnyk and center Sam Gagner will play against their old Edmonton teammates Wednesday. Gagner knows how important it is to be aggressive against the young and talented Oilers.

"If you can force their defensemen to go back for pucks and play in their end, it makes it difficult," said Gagner, who is still looking for his first point as a Coyote. "I just know as an offensive guy, it gets frustrating playing in your end. I think it's important for us to force them to do that."

The Oilers didn't skate Wednesday on a back-to-back, but any discussions they had likely centered around defense. They allowed six goals to the Kings on Tuesday and have been outscored 16-7 in three games, playing from behind most of the time.

Edmonton played without forwards Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle in Los Angeles and goalie Viktor Fasth left the game with a groin injury in the first period. Fasth is not available Wednesday and the Oilers recalled goalie Richard Bachman from the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League on Wednesday to serve as the backup for Ben Scrivens.

The Oilers also recalled forward Steven Pinizzotto from Oklahoma City and optioned forward Bogdan Yakimov to the Barons. Pinizzotto is expected to play against the Coyotes. Yakimov made his NHL debut against the Kings.

Here are the projected lineups:


Taylor Hall - Mark Arcobello - Teddy Purcell

Benoit Pouliot - Leon Draisaitl - Nail Yakupov

David Perron - Boyd Gordon - Jesse Joensuu

Steven PinizzottoMatt HendricksWill Acton

Justin SchultzDarnell Nurse

Andrew FerenceJeff Petry

Nikita Nikitin - Mark Fayne

Ben Scrivens

Richard Bachman

Scratched: Oscar Klefbom, Brad Hunt

Injured: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (undisclosed), Jordan Eberle (undisclosed), Viktor Fasth (groin)


Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan

Rob Klinkhammer - Martin Hanzal - Martin Erat

Lauri Korpikoski - Sam Gagner - David Moss

Brandon McMillan - Joe Vitale - Kyle Chipchura

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Zbynek Michalek

Keith Yandle - Michael Stone

David Schlemko - Connor Murphy

Mike Smith

Devan Dubnyk

Scratched: B.J. Crombeen, Chris Summers

Injured: None

Status report: The Coyotes sent center Justin Hodgman to the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League. They will like make a move to replace him before heading on the road next week.

Who's hot: Ekman-Larsson had a career-high eight shots against the Kings and rebounded from a subpar effort against Winnipeg with one of his best games as a Coyote. Yandle had four goals and seven points in six games against the Oilers last season. … Perron had five goals against the Coyotes, who were 4-0-1 against Edmonton in 2013-14 and 9-0-3 over the past three seasons. They are 15-2-3 against the Oilers since Tippett arrived in Arizona in 2009-10.

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