NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, April 3rd (All times eastern)
Edmonton Oilers (24-46-7) at Phoenix Coyotes (47-25-6), 10 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The playoff-bound Phoenix Coyotes will try to avoid their first three-game slide in nearly three months when they host the lowly Edmonton Oilers tonight at Jobing.com Arena.
The Coyotes were dealt regulation losses in both tests of a two-game road trip, losing in Vancouver and Calgary on consecutive nights. Phoenix last lost three in a row during an 0-2-1 stretch from Jan. 7-12, but the club hasn't dropped three straight in regulation all season.
Phoenix has 100 points and despite clinching a playoff berth for the first time since the spring of 2002, the Coyotes have some work to secure home ice in the opening round of the postseason. Phoenix is four points ahead of Nashville for the fourth seed in the West.
The Coyotes are not yet out of the race for the Pacific Division title either. Phoenix is six points behind San Jose for the division lead with four games left for each club.
The Oilers, meanwhile are dead last in the NHL with just 55 points on the season. However, despite losing two of three to Phoenix this year, Edmonton still has eight victories in the last 11 meetings between the clubs. The Oilers have also won five of their last eight in the desert, although Phoenix notched a 6-1 win the last time the clubs met at Jobing.com Arena on Feb. 8.
Tonight marks the start of a two-game homestand, a residency that will complete Phoenix's regular-season home slate. The Coyotes, who have an excellent 27-10-2 record as the host, will cap the brief homestand Wednesday against Nashville before making stops in Los Angeles and San Jose to end the campaign.
After losing 4-1 in Vancouver on Tuesday, the Coyotes were handed a 2-1 setback the following night in Calgary. Miikka Kiprusoff was very strong in net with 29 saves, lifting the playoff-hopeful Flames to the close win.
Lee Stempniak scored the only goal for the Coyotes, who have lost four of five. Jason LaBarbera, getting the start because the team rested Ilya Bryzgalov, allowed both goals on 31 shots in defeat.
"I thought our guys pushed hard tonight but we couldn't get the one we needed to tie it up," said Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett.
Phoenix is expected to start Bryzgalov in net tonight. The Russian backstop is a possible candidate for the Vezina Trophy with a 40-20-5 record and a league- leading eight shutouts this season. Bryzgalov is 4-5-2 in 10 career starts against Edmonton.
Edmonton has lost its last four games in regulation and is coming off Friday's setback in Dallas. Jamie Benn posted two goals and one assist as the Stars blew a three-goal lead but recovered to down the Oilers, 6-3, at American Airlines Center.
Dustin Penner, Marc Pouliot and Ethan Moreau scored during a second-period burst for the Oilers, while Devan Dubnyk allowed all six goals on 35 shots in the loss.
"You can't play half a game and expect to win," said Penner. "We didn't even play a half game. What can you say, there's times we look good and then there's times we don't. We had one good period and it's embarrassing."
Tonight's test marks the end of a four-game road trip for the Oilers, who have a dismal 8-27-3 record away from Edmonton this year.
04/03 11:10:06 ET