EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers host the Arizona Coyotes Tuesday night, and the 'Yotes will play their second game in as many nights, after thumping the Calgary Flames 5-0 Monday. Despite coming in on a back-to-back, the Oilers aren't necessarily viewing it as an edge.
"I used to think there was an advantage but honestly teams are so used to it now, teams play so many back-to-backs nowadays especially this year with the World Cup and all that," said Oilers Captain Connor McDavid.
Edmonton is 2-1-1 against Arizona this campaign and will look to end the season series with a win by coming out the gate firing.
"Definitely try to jump on them early and wear them down and hopefully it benefits us late in the game," said McDavid.
As the regular season creeps towards its conclusion, compiling points now is as important as ever.
"As a team, I think when we look at where we are, we're in a playoff spot which is obviously the first goal," said winger Jordan Eberle. "But second off, we have a chance here with 26 games to move up and catch some momentum moving into the playoffs."
Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan will unleash his new lines on the ice tonight. The shuffles in the groupings include Eberle skating alongside Patrick Maroon and McDavid.
"For me, defensively on the wall, you got to make plays to be able to get him the puck with speed so that he can carry it in," said Eberle.
The new-look lines were made to stimulate some individuals and with the trade deadline looming, if the team gets those players contributing McLellan thinks it will resemble new roster additions.
"There are players in your own lineup that have to produce more and can be considered acquisitions if they get themselves going," said McLellan. "Looch, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins; if those three just get going the way they're capable of going on a consistent basis, that's like acquiring some pretty good players… we're looking internally at ways we can get try and get a few others up and running. Forget what's coming from the outside, let's make what we have here better and get them producing the way then can."
The Oilers will welcome Iiro Pakarinen to the lineup after being sidelined with a knee injury since the pre-season. He'll flank the right side on the fourth line with Matt Hendricks and Mark Letestu. Benoit Pouliot comes out of the lineup and is day-to-day after falling hard in practice.
"We don't have high expectations for him but yet we expect him to contribute to the game," said McLellan. "Players may have a tendency to give you more in game one than they do in games three and four just because they're excited about being back. We could use that spark."
Eric Gryba will skate with Brandon Davidson on defence.
Talbot was off the ice first and will start in net.
The lines are:
Maroon - McDavid - Eberle
Lucic - Draisaitl - Slepyshev
Caggiula - Nugent-Hopkins - Kassian
Hendricks - Letestu - Pakarinen
Klefbom - Larsson
Sekera - Benning
Davidson - Gryba
-- Paul Gazzola, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (29-19-8) vs. COYOTES (19-28-7)
TV: 7:00 p.m. MST; Televised on Sportsnet West
This marks the fifth and final meeting between the Oilers and Coyotes this season and third and final game in Edmonton.
The last time these teams met was on January 16th in Edmonton, when the Oilers defeated the Coyotes 3-1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl and Jujhar Khaira all scored for the Oilers in the win.
Each team has won twice so far this season.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers have dropped four of their last five games. Last game was their first since their five-day bye week where the team had no games or practices and it was a 5-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.
Connor McDavid has a one-point lead on both Sidney Crosby (PIT) and Nicklas Backstrom (WSH) for the league lead in scoring with 61 points (18G, 43A). McDavid has led the league in scoring at some point in all four months of the 2016-17 season. He has led or co-led the NHL in scoring since Nov. 22, 2016.
McDavid has 18 multi-point games this season, tied for first in the NHL with Brent Burns (SJ), with one more than Sidney Crosby (PIT). McDavid has had three points in a game on seven occasions.
McDavid also leads all Oilers forwards in average time on ice (21:13) and ranks fifth in the NHL. His season high (26:43) came on Dec. 31 against Vancouver.
Forward Patrick Maroon registered the Oilers only goal vs. Chicago on Feb. 11, giving him 19 goals on the season, a career best. His previous career best was 12 goals in a season (2015-16 with Anaheim and Edmonton)
Since joining the Oilers, Maroon has 41 points (27G, 14A) in 72 games. The St. Louis native had 26 goals in 204 games with Anaheim. Maroon also has a +18 plus-minus rating in his time with the Oilers, after a -8 career mark with the Ducks.
Coyotes team scope:
The Coyotes have won each of their last two games and three of their last four. They've faced and defeated some tough opponents in this stretch.
Last night, the Coyotes defeated the Flames 5-0 in Calgary. On Saturday, they won 4-3 in overtime over the Penguins. The previous Saturday, the Coyotes defeated San Jose 3-2 in a shootout.
Radim Vrbata leads the Coyotes in scoring this season with 37 points (11 goals) in 54 games. Defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson has 10 goals and 31 points in 54 contests.
Goaltender Mike Smith is having an excellent season with a 14-15-6 record, 2.83 goals-against average and .918 save percentage. Smith was Arizona's lone representative to the 2017 NHL All-Star Game.
Smith played last night against the Flames, earning his second shutout of the season. As a result, there's a chance the Oilers see goaltender Louis Domingue tonight.
Domingue is 5-12-1 in 21 games played and 17 starts. He has a 3.19 goals-against average and .897 save percentage.