Coyotes host Oilers as McDavid makes first Arizona visit

BY foxsports • March 22, 2016

Arizona hockey fans will get their first close-up look at rookie phenom Connor McDavid on Tuesday night as the Arizona Coyotes host the Edmonton Oilers at Gila River Arena.

The Coyotes have dominated play against the Oilers in recent years -- winning 23 of the past 28 games -- but the presence of McDavid, who missed 37 games of his first season because of a shoulder injury, should make it more difficult to extend their dominance.

Arizona is 3-0-1 in the season series and 23-1-4 in 28 meetings since January 2010 and has scored at least one point in the past 22 games (18-0-4), dating back to March 17, 2011. Rookie Max Domi has four goals and two assists in this season's four meetings.

The game can be seen on FOX Sports Arizona, starting at 6:30 p.m.

The Coyotes (31-34-7) are still on the fringes of the Western Conference playoff race, but their hopes are growing more and more distant after getting shut out in their past two games by Tampa Bay and San Jose. They are 11 points back of eighth place in the West with 10 games to play.

The Coyotes have received a nice bump since goalie Mike Smith's return from core muscle surgery in December. Smith won his first two starts following his return before coming out on the losing end of Sunday's 3-0 loss at San Jose.

The 10th-year pro has stopped 104 of 107 shots in his three games back. He had 44 saves against Edmonton in his first game back from the injury on March 12 -- a 4-0 Coyotes' win that pushed his record to 12-0-1 with a 2.14 goals-against average in his last 13 decisions vs. the Oilers.

"For the rest of the season I'll keep pushing forward," Smith said. "We're definitely doing some good things, but we've got to find ways to win these games."

The Coyotes haven't been shut out in three consecutive games since March 2013. Some of offensive struggles can be traced to the absence of defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who has a team-leading 49 points, to a shoulder injury. Ekman-Larsson has missed six consecutive games, but there are indications that he could return for Tuesday's game. Defenseman Philip Samuelsson was sent down to Springfield of the American Hockey League on Monday.

The Coyotes have totaled seven goals in two games against Edmonton goalie Cam Talbot this season, but Talbot has played well of late, posting a 1.66 GAA in winning seven of his past nine starts. He's been even better on the road, winning four in a row while allowing only three goals with a .978 save percentage.

Edmontin (29-39-7) is coming off a 3-2 loss at home to Colorado on Sunday but has won seven of its last 12 and has moved one point ahead of Winnipeg in the battle to escape last place in the Western Conference.

"We may not be a playoff team, but we have playoff fans," coach Todd McLellan said. "At some point, we have to reward them."

McDavid has 14 goals and 26 assists in 38 games, fourth best on the team despite missing nearly half the season. Left wing Taylor Hall leads the Oilers with 23 goals, 35 assists and 58 points.



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