SCOTTSDALE, AZ - Two Pacific Division titans will meet Sunday at Gila River Arena as the Oilers enter Arizona hot off a 4-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday while the Coyotes dispatched the Los Angeles Kings.
Edmonton, leading the Pacific Division with a 15-7-3 record and 33 points, has been followed by the 'Yotes all season.
The Desert Dogs are second in the Pacific with 30 points and defeated the Oilers in November with a 3-2 overtime decision.
It's safe to say that the two sides, who enter the match on a level playing field in a back-to-back situation, will put their best foot forward to show who belongs at the Pacific Division summit.
"It should be a hard-fought divisional game," Darnell Nurse said pre-game. "Any time you play against Arizona, the games seem very tight. Playing in their building, it's going to be a good test for us. Especially in a back-to-back."
BACK-TO-BACK PLAN OF ATTACK
The hockey world shared a collective laugh when Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett compared how teams navigate back-to-backs in these days as opposed to in the past.
"You know how different they are?" the Oilers coach said earlier in the month.
"You play a back-to-back road game. You go out and you'd have to find something to eat after. You try to go back to your hotel and get to sleep then get ready for the 6:30 bus that comes in the morning to pick you up to take you to the airport. The hotel shuttle van would take you to the airport. Then you get on a commercial flight, you get there, have the skate or go to the rink. Your gear would still be all wet. And you would try to go out and find yourself a pre-game meal because there weren't pre-game meals then.
"Now, guys have something to eat, a milkshake or pizza right after they get off the ice. They get a nice luxury coach bus to the chartered plane. They got food on the plane. Then they get into their nice new comfy brand-new bed at the brand-new hotel. They have a nice sleep-in in the morning, a big pre-game meal, night's rest in the afternoon then show up and they got full energy at night.
"So, it's different."
On Sunday, Nurse was asked about two-in-twos, sharing how players approach and manage them.
"They're a little bit easier nowadays then they were back in the day," the defenceman quipped.
"Back-to-backs, as a player, you got to love them. You play a game, kind of park it, wake up the next day and are on to a new challenge."
FRIENDS TURNED FOES
Oilers forward Josh Archibald knows all about the Desert Dogs. The winger suited up in 107 career games with the Coyotes for two seasons, scoring 17 goals and 33 points in their uniform.
"I was close with a lot of guys here and we had a lot of fun," Archibald said. "To be on the other side and to play against them will be a good test but a lot of fun, too."
After experiencing first-hand how the Coyotes like to play, the 27-year-old provided a scouting report on his former club.
"They're a hard-working team," he said. "They don't give up. They try to win a lot of 1-on-1 battles. That's kind of their game plan."
The Oilers did not skate on Sunday and held a brief hotel avail. Tippett confirmed Mikko Koskinen would get the nod in goal, given the back-to-back scenario.
Sunday's contest will be the second of four meetings this season between the Oilers and Coyotes. Earlier this month on November 4 at Rogers Place, the Coyotes were victorious 3-2 in overtime in a game that saw Gaëtan Haas score his first NHL goal.
The teams will reconvene in the new year on January 18 back in Edmonton for an afternoon matinee before wrapping up the season series on Arizona on February 4.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers enter Arizona after dealing a 4-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday, as Connor McDavid scored twice and Leon Draisaitl culled three assists in the match.
Edmonton is 2-1-0 on their current five-game Western Conference road trip, with the lone blemish thus far being a 5-1 defeat to the Los Angeles Kings.
Sunday's match is a big Pacific Division showdown between two of the division's top clubs. Edmonton is first in the Pacific with a 15-7-3 record and 33 points, three up on Arizona, who are second.
Coyotes team scope:
The Coyotes irked out a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, entering Sunday's clash with the Oilers in much of the same circumstances on a back-to-back.
Arizona is 5-4-1 in their last 10 outings and are 6-5-0 at Gila River Arena this season.
Conor Garland leads the 'Yotes in goals with 10 and Nick Schmaltz is the club's point leader with 18.
By the Numbers:
Draisaitl is first in the League with 47 points (16G, 31A) and McDavid is second with 46 (18G, 28A). ... The Oilers are averaging 2.76 goals-against per game, seventh-fewest in the League. ... The Oilers are second in the NHL on the power play and penalty kill with a 31.5 percentage on the PP and 87.6 average on the PK, for a sum of 119.1. ... Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper leads all goalies with a 1.93 goals-against average.
OILERS - Jujhar Khaira (hand) is day-to-day; Matt Benning (concussion) is on IR.
COYOTES - Lawson Crouse (upper body) is day-to-day; Michael Grabner (undisclosed) is day-to-day; Niklas Hjalmarsson (fractured fibula) is on IR.