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Surging Coyotes travel to face struggling Oilers

by Brian Hunter
COYOTES (8-5-5) at OILERS (4-10-3)


Last 10:
Phoenix 6-2-2; Edmonton 2-6-2

Season series:
First of four meetings on the 2010-11 slate. The Coyotes have won the three most recent matchups after the Oilers drew first blood during last season's series. Ilya Bryzgalov started all four games in goal and Shane Doan had a pair of goals for Phoenix in a 5-4 overtime win on Jan. 5. Dustin Penner led the way for Edmonton with 3 goals.

Big story:
Four wins in as many games and all of a sudden the Coyotes once again resemble the team that surprised the NHL last season en route to a franchise-record 107 points. On the other hand, everything seems to be going wrong for the Oilers right now -- back home after a dreadful road trip, they got shellacked by the Blackhawks on Wednesday.

Team Scope:

Coyotes: The first stop on a three-game road trip through western Canada was a successful one for Phoenix, which received 39 saves from Bryzgalov and goals by Wojtek Wolski and Martin Hanzal in a span of 5:20 during the second period in recording a 3-1 victory Wednesday. Bryzgalov came up big during a scoreless first 20 minutes in which the Coyotes were outshot 16-9 but didn't allow the Flames to get the all-important first goal.

"It was a solid road win for our team," Wolski said. "We are playing hard and 'Bryz' played great. We have to keep it going the rest of the trip."

Oilers: Beating Chicago at the United Center on Nov. 7 got Edmonton's five-game swing off to a positive start, but the Oilers are 0-4-1 since and the Blackhawks got revenge for having lost twice to them at home this season by claiming a 5-0 win in their first game back at Rexall Place. Starting goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin left after two periods and was subsequently placed on injured reserve Thursday with a groin injury. Veteran Martin Gerber was recalled from the AHL.

"It's almost like we're waiting for something poor to happen," coach Tom Renney said. "We've got to avoid that because we could become our own worst enemy here if we're not careful. We could be the biggest opponent we face."

Who's hot:
Hanzal has goals in consecutive games for the Coyotes and 3 points during that span. Bryzgalov is 4-0-2 over his past six decisions.

Injury report: Phoenix captain Shane Doan (upper body) and defenseman Kurt Sauer (concussion) are on injured reserve, as are Khabibulin and defenseman Ladislav Smid (concussion) for Edmonton.

Stat pack:
Nolan Yonkman, who registered 1 goal and 8 points in 50 games for the Capitals from 2001-06, made his Coyotes debut on Wednesday and finished a plus-1 in 4:50 of ice time. … The Oilers have given up an average of six goals per game during their losing streak and allowed 47 shots to the Blackhawks.

Puck drop:
Ales Hemsky was Edmonton's first-round pick in the 2001 Entry Draft and a key cog in the 2006 squad's run to the Stanley Cup Final. This season his 11 points are tied for second on the team in scoring and his plus-2 rating leads all forwards. Hemsky sounded off to the Edmonton Journal following Wednesday's defeat.

"I don't care about rebuilding … it's nice to rebuild, but I'm here to win games," he said. "It's just excuses that we're rebuilding.

"We work hard in practices, but the games come and we have no confidence. If you don't have that, nothing is easy.

"We can't point fingers. Everybody has to look at themselves. Nobody's going to do it for us."

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