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Oilers head south to face Coyotes

by Deborah Francisco
OILERS (14-25-8) at COYOTES (24-16-9)


Last 10 -- Edmonton 2-7-1; Phoenix 6-3-1.

Season series – This is the third of four contests between the teams. Phoenix won the first two meetings with a 4-3 shootout decision on Nov. 19 and 5-0 shutout victory on Nov. 23. Following Tuesday night's tilt in Phoenix, the teams will meet one more time this season on Mar. 17.

Big story -- The Edmonton Oilers continue to anchor the bottom of the Western Conference Standings with just 36 points on the season despite participating in some very tight contests recently. Meanwhile, the Phoenix Coyotes are finding ways to maintain a playoff spot with the 6th slot in the logjam that is the Western Conference standings, but that could all change if the Coyotes don’t continue on their steady pace. Plus, historically, the Oilers have dominated play in meetings between these two clubs with a record of 117-55-5 all-time.

Team Scope:

Oilers -- The Oilers start with a clean slate on Tuesday night in Phoenix as they begin a two-game road trip and try to forget about last week's winless three-game homestand.

Despite going 0-3 in the homestand, the Oilers were within one shootout goal of defeating the streaking Nashville Predators on Sunday night. The Oilers twice came back in the third period to tie the game. Rookie Taylor Hall notched a goal at the 16:13 mark of the third period to force the game into overtime where Hall had several good scoring chances but was unable to convert on them. Unfortunately for the Oilers, Nashville's Pekka Rinne stopped all three Oiler shooters in the shootout.

As disappointing as the shootout loss was, the Oilers front-office is thinking about this season not on a game-by-game basis, but in the long-term.

"We have to learn how to play this game properly," coach Tom Renney told the Edmonton Journal. "Whatever our season looks like at the end of the day, we have to have gotten better. We have to be able to pay attention to those parts of the game that are incumbent with being a winner over the long haul. That's really what this first season will be all about."

Coyotes – The Coyotes just split a home-and-home series with the Los Angeles Kings winning the first tilt 2-0 at Staples Center in L.A., but dropping the second contest 4-3 at home.

After outworking the Kings on Thursday night in the shutout win, the Coyotes gave up three early goals in the Saturday night contest and were forced to rally back but they just came up short in the 4-3 loss.

"I give our guys a ton of credit," coach Dave Tippett told the Arizona Republic. "They mustered up a lot of energy to get us back in the game. . . . They were a very desperate team. You could tell that they were a very motivated team."

It was the Coyotes' third straight loss on home ice after enjoying a four-game win streak that started on Jan. 10.

Who's hotTaylor Hall was named as the second star of the game in Sunday's contest when he scored the game-tying goal and notched three blocked shots and a number of scoring chances in the extra frame. He continues to lead the Oilers in goals this season with 15. … Lee Stempniak scored a pair of goals in the Coyotes' last game. He is currently on a five-game scoring streak with eight points in that time.

Injury report  – Edmonton forward Ales Hemsky (concussion) is out indefinitely, as well as forward Gilbert Brule and defenseman Ryan Whitney with ankle injuries. Rookie Jordan Eberle (ankle) is day-to-day … The Coyotes are without defenseman David Schlemko, who is on IR with an undisclosed injury, and center Vernon Fiddler (upper-body injury). … Defenseman Ed Jovanovski (lower body) is expected to make his return from on Tuesday night.

Stat pack -- The Coyotes have outscored the Oilers 16-5 while winning the last four meetings at Arena. However, Edmonton has the all-time scoring edge over Phoenix with a 825-660 record.

Puck drop -- Jovanovski, who has missed the past five games because of a lower-body injury suffered on Jan. 13 vs. Toronto, skated with teammates on Monday and is hoping to return to the lineup for Tuesday's home game against Edmonton.  Jovanovski has 14 points (5 goals, 9 assists) on the season so far.

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