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Oilers hope to make Phoenix howl

by Staff Writer / Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers look to put an end to a slide that has seen them drop four out of their last five games and fall out of first place in the Northwest Division. With two games left until the Christmas break, the team hopes to get back on the winning track.

After a 4-12-0 start to the season, the Coyotes started to pick up their play in early November. They went 6-4-0 in their next ten outings but have since dropped four of their last five with their only victory coming over Columbus in a shootout.

The Coyotes' last game was five days ago, a 6-3 loss at home to the Calgary Flames.

Last time Edmonton traveled to Phoenix, the Coyotes won big by a 6-2 score with Phoenix getting revenge on Edmonton's 5-2 victory three days earlier.

OILERS TO WATCH: Ales Hemsky played his second game on Tuesday since returning from a shoulder injury and looked like he was rounding back into form. Hemsky assisted on both Petr Sykora goals in highlight-reel fashion... Sykora also clearly benefitted from Hemsky's presence with his pair of goals. He ended a string of 11 games without a goal... Raffi Torres leads the Oilers with a +11 rating followed by Fernando Pisani at +9. At the other end of the spectrum, Joffrey Lupul is a -14 but did score a goal on Tuesday and looked good on a line with Marty Reasoner and Toby Petersen.

COYOTES TO WATCH: Former Oiler Georges Laraque is tied for fourth in Coyotes scoring with 16 points. He remains on pace to break his career high of 29 points set in 2000-01 with Edmonton... Owen Nolan is starting to find his game again after missing a full season after the lockout ended. He has quietly moved into third in Phoenix scoring behind Ed Jovanovski. Mike Comrie has two goals and three assists for five points in five games since returning from injury.

MARKKANEN IS IN: Jussi Markkanen will be starting in goal tonight for the Oilers. It will be his first start since a 3-1 win over Carolina back on December 6.

ROSTER UPDATES: Edmonton - Ethan Moreau (shoulder) is out. Ryan Smyth (thumb) is doubtful; Phoenix - Steve Reinprecht (collar bone) is out. Nick Boynton (foot) is out. Patrick Fischer (groin) is questioanble.

FAST FACTS: The Coyotes are 6-1-1 in their last eight home games, outscoring opponents 34-25 in that time. They've been particularly good in the third period where they've outscored the opposition 9-4... The Phoenix line of Oleg Saprykin, Mike Zigomanis and Georges Laraque has been dubbed the "OMG" line by locals. The line was put together in mid-November and over those 16 games, they have racked up 14 goals and 32 points. The Coyotes are 8-7-1 during that time... The Coyotes are 9-10-1 since signing Yanic Perreault in early November. Prior to the signing, they had a record of 3-9-0.

QUOTABLE: "Obviously, when it's that long, you start to wonder what you're going to be doing in five years, so the thought did creep into my mind that I'd never get back. But I never decided I'd give up. I just kept saying, well, if it doesn't look like I'm going to have a shot in the NHL next year, maybe I'll play one more year. I'm glad that right now I don't have to worry about that, that I can just play hockey." - Oilers forward Toby Petersen, who ended a four-year drought without scoring a regular season goal at the NHL level on Tuesday night against Colorado.
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