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Coyotes continue playoff push against Oilers

by Eric Goodman
COYOTES (37-23-11) at OILERS (23-38-9)


Last 10:
Phoenix 4-4-2; Edmonton 4-5-1

Season series:
This is the fourth and final meeting between these two teams. The Coyotes won once in regulation and once in the shootout, while the Oilers took the most recent game with a 4-3 victory in regulation at Phoenix on Jan. 25. Phoenix has won the last two games at Rexall Place.

Big story:
The Coyotes appear primed for a playoff push with their current three-game winning streak. They have also earned at least one point in five straight games and can position themselves within the top half of the Western Conference standings with a victory on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Oilers are currently the only team in the NHL mathematically eliminated from playoff contention and so they will aim to do their part in spoiling Phoenix's postseason chances.

Team Scope:

Phoenix continued its climb up the West standings with a 4-3 win at fellow playoff competitor Calgary on Tuesday. While defenseman Rostislav Klesla returned from missing two games after getting hit in the face with a shot on March 8 and fellow blueliner Keith Yandle scored a goal to move into first place among the NHL's defensive scoring leaders with 57 points, the Coyotes nearly surrendered their 4-1 third-period lead. Luckily, goalie Ilya Bryzgalov stepped up with a number of big saves in the closing minutes to earn the win for Phoenix.

Oilers: With a depleted lineup due to a rash of injuries, Edmonton struggled in its most recent game with a 5-1 loss at Pittsburgh on Sunday. After beginning their five-game road trip with an impressive 5-1 win at Colorado on Mar. 5, the Oilers went on to lose their next four road games by a combined score of 16-3. Two straight home games beginning Thursday would usually mean a better chance at grabbing a few victories to close out the season, but Edmonton is 12-19-4 at Rexall Place, compared to its 11-19-5 record on the road this season.

Who's hot:
Coyotes captain Shane Doan is in the midst of a five-game points streak with 3 goals and 4 assists over that span. Bryzgalov has won three straight for Phoenix and four of his last five games overall. … Ryan Jones notched the Oilers' lone goal on Sunday and will look to extend his goal-scoring streak to three games.

Injury report:
For Phoenix, Martin Hanzal (lower body) is listed as day-to-day, while defenseman Ed Jovanovski is on injured reserve following orbital bone surgery. … For the Oilers, forwards Taylor Hall (ankle), and Sam Gagner (hand) and defenseman Ryan Whitney (ankle) are all out for the season. Still a few weeks away are defenseman Taylor Chorney (knee) and forward Ales Hemsky (shoulder). Defenseman Theo Peckham remains listed as day-to-day with a concussion, but skated in Wednesday morning's practice. Center Shawn Horcoff appeared to injure his foot blocking a shot against Pittsburgh on Sunday. Finally, coach Tom Renney reported Tuesday that forward Jean-Francois Jacques (foot) is also hurting and unlikely to play Thursday.

Stat pack:
With the preservation of its third-period lead over the Flames on Tuesday, Phoenix improved to 28-2-2 when leading in the final period of regulation.

Puck drop:
Coyotes coach Dave Tippett has been seeing nothing but good things from his team recently and is impressed with how they have been turning it up towards the stretch run.

"I like the way our guys are working. They're working real hard and playing a pretty smart game," Tippett told reporters following Tuesday's win. "Right now we're getting a couple bounces here and there, but our team is working hard for those bounces."

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