Coyotes try to continue mastery of Oilers
The Arizona Coyotes haven't been to the playoffs in four straight seasons and their prospects of ending that streak don't appear promising as points appear hard to come by.
A safe bet is that they circle every date on the schedule against the Edmonton Oilers.
The Coyotes try to record a point in their 25th straight game against the Oilers when the teams meet for the first time at Rogers Place on Sunday afternoon in the back end of a home-and-home series.
Arizona (7-10-2) is 14th — and last — in the Western Conference with 16 points, and its defense was lit up for 39 goals while going 2-6-2 on the road.
But since dropping a 4-3 decision in regulation on Jan. 25, 2011, the Coyotes are 20-0-4 against the Oilers. Arizona's point streak is the longest by one team against a single opponent since the Oilers' 24-game run against the Vancouver Canucks from 1985-88.
“We have to outwork them,” Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson said. “I think that's why we've been successful against them.”
Arizona continued the streak with a 3-2 shootout victory Friday. Longtime captain Shane Doan tied the score midway through the third period and Radim Vrbata and Ekman-Larsson scored in the tiebreaker.
Oilers coach Todd McLellan praised Arizona for its approach to games.
“I don't know if a team ever has another team's number because every event is its own entity, but the Coyotes wait for teams to make mistakes and they capitalize,” McLellan told the Edmonton Journal.
Oilers captain Connor McDavid recorded his first NHL hat trick earlier this month to start a scoring tear. With a goal against the Coyotes on Friday, McDavid has five goals and four assists in a four-game points streak, and leads the league with 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists).
However, only 11 of those points (three goals, eight assists) have come at home. McDavid has failed to score a goal in five straight games in Edmonton, yet has six assists over that span.
“We need to get two (points) against divisional teams,” said McDavid, whose team is 3-2-1 against Pacific foes this season.
McDavid is not the only Oiler to show up repeatedly in recent boxscores. Over the last four games, Leon Draisaitl (three goals, three assists) and Milan Lucic (one goal, five assists) each have six points, while Jordan Eberle (two goals, two assists), Oscar Klefbom (two goals, two assists) and rookie Jesse Puljujarvi (four assists) each have four points.
The Oilers need their offense to come through. Edmonton (12-8-2) is 5-4-0 at home, but 0-4-0 when scoring fewer than three goals per game.
The Oilers tweeted Saturday that Cam Talbot will start in goal. Talbot is 11-7-2 with a 2.47 goals-against average, a .921 save percentage and three shutouts. He's given up nine goals while going 0-2-1 over his last three starts versus Arizona.
Doan's goal Friday was only his second of the season and pushed him closer to a milestone. Now in his 21st season — all with the Coyotes franchise dating back their final campaign in Winnipeg — Doan needs two goals to become the 93rd player in NHL history to reach 400.
Doan has nine goals in 37 career games in Edmonton, but none in his last six visits. He's also posted two multi-goal games, the last coming in 2010.
Mike Smith is 3-1-1 with a 2.96 GAA and .911 save percentage after Friday's win over the Oilers in which he denied McDavid and Eberle in the tiebreaker.
Playing at Rexall Place, the Oilers' former longtime home, Smith was 7-0-1 with a 1.93 GAA and .942 save percentage in nine games. His only shutout in northern Alberta came on March 12, when he turned aside 44 shots in the Coyotes 4-0 win.
“Now we have to go in there and play even better to win in Edmonton,” Ekman-Larsson told the Arizona Republic.