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Coyotes hope to end slide vs. Oilers

by Jerry Brown
PHOENIX -- The Phoenix Coyotes will be looking to avoid their first four-game regulation-time losing streak in coach Dave Tippett's tenure tonight when they host the Edmonton Oilers at Arena.

The Coyotes have had only two losing streaks of three games or more since Tippett took over to begin the 2009-10 season. but the Coyotes are 2-5-0 in December and lost their third straight Wednesday, a 4-1 loss in Anaheim on Wednesday. The Coyotes were outscored 13-4 in losses at Detroit, home against Minnesota and at the Ducks, and have been outscored 8-0 in the first period of those games. Phoenix has allowed 13 first-period goals in its last six games, dating to a 4-2 loss against Philadelphia on Dec. 3, when they allowed four goals in the first period.
The Oilers are struggling as well, having won just two of their last eight games (2-5-1), including a 3-0 loss in Calgary on Saturday.

They will get a lift tonight, though, with the addition of Taylor Hall. who hasn't played since suffering a shoulder injury Nov. 26 at Colorado. Hall will play on the second line Thursday, with Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky. Ryan Smyth, who had been playing in Hall's spot, will slide to the third line, alongside ex-Coyote Eric Belanger and Ryan Jones.
Defenseman Corey Potter (knee) also is ready to play after sitting out since Nov. 17 with a knee injury. But Edmonton coach Tom Renney would not confirm at the morning skate whether Potter would make his return Thursday. If Potter does return, he likely would take Colten Teubert's spot in the lineup.
Devan Dubnyk, who was in net for the Oilers' 4-2 loss to Coyotes on Nov. 5, will get the start tonight. Former Coyotes Nikolai Khabibulin didn't play in the loss to the Flames and sat out practice this week, as well, although he said he's not injured -- was just resting.

Sam Gagner - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle
Taylor Hall - Shawn Horcoff - Ales Hemsky
Ryan Smyth - Eric Belanger - Ryan Jones
Ben Eager - Anton Lander - Lennart Petrell

Ladislav Smid - Tom Gilbert
Ryan Whitney - Jeff Petry
Theo Peckham - Colten Teuberg

Devan Dubnyk will start in goal, with Nikolai Khabibulin the backup.

Mikkel Boedker - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Lauri Korpikoski
Raffi Torres  - Kyle Turris - Kyle Chipchura

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Adrian Aucoin
David Schlemko - Michal Rozsival

Jason LaBarbera will start in goal, with Mike Smith backing him up.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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