The previous few seasons have been marked mostly with disappointment for the Arizona Coyotes following the best run of success the franchise has had since moving to the desert.
Veterans Mike Smith and Martin Hanzal appear especially determined to help them become a contender in the Pacific Division.
Arizona looks to win a sixth straight meeting with Edmonton as the Oilers continue their road trip Thursday night.
The Coyotes (8-6-1) made the club's first-ever appearance in the conference finals in 2012, but have missed the playoffs in each of the last three years after finishing last in the Pacific in 2014-15.
They're being outscored 43-42 to start this season, but they've found ways to win lately and have earned victories in three of their last four. Arizona rallied to beat Anaheim 4-3 in overtime on Monday before Hanzal scored his first two goals of the season in Tuesday's 3-2 victory over Los Angeles.
The nine-year veteran's 13 assists are tied for third in the league.
''Every win is going to help our confidence,'' Hanzal said. ''We have a young group in here, and winning builds confidence.''
Smith was happy to see Hanzal finally hit the back of the net, but he was also pleased with a 33-save effort that he hopes will get him back on track. He has a 3.11 goals-against average in 13 starts, but he has a .913 save percentage over his last three since allowing two goals on three shots in a loss to Vancouver on Oct. 30.
''I think we believe in here that we can compete with good teams in this league, and we've proven that,'' Smith said. ''They're a good hockey team. You just get up to play high-caliber teams.''
Edmonton (6-10-0) isn't in that category just yet, and Arizona has had plenty of success in recent meetings. Hanzal had three assists in a 5-1 victory in the last matchup Dec. 23 as the Coyotes swept the five-game season series.
They're 15-0-3 against the Oilers since Edmonton's last regulation victory in the series Jan. 25, 2011. Smith is 10-0-1 with a 2.42 GAA in his last 12 starts against the Oilers, who snapped a two-game skid with Wednesday's 4-3 overtime victory over Anaheim in the second of a four-game trip.
It marked their first victory without prized rookie Connor McDavid, who is expected to miss at least a couple months with a broken clavicle suffered in a win over Philadelphia on Nov. 3.
Leon Draisaitl had a goal and two assists while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins added a goal and an assist, helping Edmonton overcome three one-goal deficits. Teddy Purcell scored the winner on a breakaway in overtime.
“I liked our resiliency. Every time they got ahead we responded right away,” coach Todd McLellan said. “That's a classic Oiler game right now. Unfortunately for us, that type of game hasn't gone our way. I'm really happy for the guys. We'll remember what it feels like, get on the plane and try to do it again tomorrow.”
The Oilers dropped five of their first seven road games and now head into Arizona, where the Coyotes are just 2-4-0. Anders Nilsson made 34 saves against the Ducks, but Cam Talbot should be back in net for this meeting.
Talbot stopped 71 of 75 shots while winning both of his starts against Arizona last season while with the New York Rangers.
- Anders Nilsson
- Cam Talbot
- Connor McDavid
- Edmonton Oilers
- Leon Draisaitl
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
- Teddy Purcell