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Oilers-Coyotes Preview @NHLdotcom

With only nine regular-season games remaining, every point is critical for an Edmonton Oilers team in the hunt for one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference.

A third-period collapse against one of the NHL's best teams kept the Oilers from earning a point their last time out and left them feeling bitter. Facing the Phoenix Coyotes should improve their mood.

Edmonton looks to avoid losing its third straight game Thursday night when it tries for its eighth consecutive victory over the Coyotes.

After earning at least one point in seven straight games (4-0-3), the Oilers (35-29-9) have gone without a point in their last two. They have not suffered three consecutive regulation losses since Oct. 22-25 - their first defeats of the season.

Tuesday's 3-2 loss to Detroit was especially disappointing, as the Red Wings scored all their goals in the final period.

Detroit's first goal tied it at 1 with 8:45 left. Then with less than two minutes remaining, the Red Wings scored twice 32 seconds apart.

"I'd say that feels worse than losing 10-2," Oilers forward Dustin Penner said. "Especially at this point of the season with the way we have been playing and who we were playing tonight. That one stings."

Ales Kotalik scored with 1 minute to play, but the Red Wings were able to hang on.

"A game like that leaves everybody with a heavy heart," Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said. "It's an incredible sense of disappointment. But at the same time we played pretty well and in a lot of ways outstanding. The way we checked and killed penalties. It's disappointing but we'll take some solace in that.

"It's going to be quite the nine-game stretch here down to the end."

The Oilers begin this final stretch against the Coyotes (30-36-7), whom they haven't lost to since Feb. 27, 2007.

Edmonton has outscored Phoenix 35-16 in the seven meetings since the start of last season with each game being decided by at least two goals.

"They've won seven of the last seven," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. "We got to be a harder team to play against when we play against them."

Ales Hemsky has four goals and nine assists during the winning streak over the Coyotes, but has struggled to find the back of the net lately. Hemsky, tied with Sheldon Souray for the Oilers lead with 21 goals, has gone eight straight games without a score.

Dwayne Roloson, who stopped 41 shots Tuesday in his 29th straight start for Edmonton, has been in net six times during the winning steak over Phoenix, posting a 2.33 goals-against average in those games.

While the Oilers are hoping to end a two-year playoff drought, the Coyotes are likely going to miss the postseason for the sixth straight time.

Phoenix lost to Anaheim 6-2 on Sunday after an impressive 5-1 win over Vancouver on Saturday. The Coyotes have alternated wins and losses in their last four games after going 1-7-1 in their previous nine.

Ilya Bryzgalov allowed six or more goals for the sixth time this season Sunday after stopping 93 of 99 shots in his previous three games. He is 0-3-0 with a 5.72 GAA in four starts against the Oilers since the start of last season.

Doan scored his team-leading 28th goal Sunday and is two shy of matching his career high set in 2005-06.

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