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Coyotes look to get healthy vs. Oilers

by John Kreiser

OILERS (24-46-7) at COYOTES (47-25-6)

Last 10 -- Edmonton 3-7-0; Phoenix 6-3-1

Season series -- It's the last of the four meetings between the teams. Each team has won once in regulation, and the Coyotes won 5-4 in a shootout at Edmonton on Jan. 5. Phoenix won 6-1 on Feb. 5 in the Oilers' last visit to Arena.

Big story -- The Coyotes looked like a road-weary team in Vancouver on Tuesday in a lackluster 4-1 loss, but showed a little more spark in a 2-1 loss at Calgary the next night. Getting back-to-back days off should give some life to a team that has spent most of the last three weeks on the road -- and one that hasn't been nearly as sharp over the last week or so since clinching the franchise's first playoff berth since 2002. They're also catching the Oilers in the second game of a back-to-back at the end of a four-game trip.

Team Scope:

Oilers -- These are tough times in Edmonton, where the Oilers are already assured of finishing last in the overall standings and likely to end up with the worst record in franchise history. They managed three goals in Dallas on Friday to overcome a 3-0 deficit, but surrendered three more and left with a 6-3 loss, their fourth in a row.

"Not a very good start, but a hard comeback," coach Pat Quinn said. "Still, the goals that were given up were sorry goals. It's frustrating that we haven't been able to kind of stem that tide, with the types of goals that have been going in on us. The front of the net is easy meat for anybody we play."

Coyotes -- Phoenix is 1-3-1 since locking up its playoff berth, and GM Don Maloney isn't thrilled about what he's seen from the NHL's most surprising team -- and he wants to make sure they're not happy just to be back in the postseason. They're currently fourth in the West and trying to hold off Detroit and Nashville and keep the home-ice edge for the opening round.

"We're not satisfied just to pat ourselves on the back," Maloney told the team's Web site. "I know we've had a good season to date and we've set some franchise records, and that's great and wonderful and all that. But really, it's meaningless come early April when we wipe the slates clean."

Who's hot -- Lee Stempniak had the Coyotes' lone goal on Wednesday, completing a 13-goal month of March in the 14 games after he came to Phoenix from Toronto at the trade deadline.

Injury report -- Edmonton forward Gilbert Brule sustained a right ankle sprain in the first period and didn't return. He was on crutches after the game. Sam Gagner has missed the Oilers' last four games with a hip injury. … Coyotes center Robert Lang is still out with a lower-body injury that has cost him nearly a month.

Stat pack -- Edmonton has dropped four straight overall and nine in a row on the road. … Phoenix's average goals per game has risen from 2.53 to 2.71 since Stempniak's arrival 4 1/2 weeks ago.

Puck drop -- A visit from the NHL's last-place team could be just what the Coyotes need to get revved up again as they try to hang onto fourth place in the West.

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