GDB LVII: Coyote Ugly

Whoever said that the 2009-10 Oilers season wouldn’t be record setting, think again. Last week the Oilers tied the franchise record with a 13-game winless streak, and tonight they have a shot at setting a dubious record: longest road losing streak. The Oilers have lost nine straight on the road, all in regulation, and haven’t won away from Rexall Place since December 11th v. the Blues.

They’ve scored a paltry nine goals in the last nine road games, getting shut out twice, while scoring once five times and twice they managed two goals. They’ve given up 36 goals during this losing streak. They’ve been outscored 36 to freaking nine! At least try and compete is what Pat Quinn should be saying prior to tonight’s tilt in Phoenix . The Oil will be hard-pressed to avoid setting the record when they face the NHL’s biggest surprise, the 35-19-5 Coyotes.

The Desert Dogs are 21-8-2 at home, and only Washington and Vancouver have more home wins. You wonder if they actually had some fans come watch them, how dominant they’d be at home. The biggest key for the Coyotes has been their ability to score first. They are 26-2-2 when scoring first, a league-best .867 winning %, while the Oilers are a woeful 6-25-3 when giving up the first goal. If the Oilers don’t score first tonight there’s a great chance they will set a new mark for road futility.

COYOTES UGLY: BUT THEY WIN

The Coyotes won’t scare anyone with their offence. Scottie Upshall led them in goals, with 18 before ripping up his ACL over a week ago. Radim Vrbata is now tied with Upshall with 18, while Shane Doan leads them with 43 points including 17 goals. The Coyotes are great at winning close games. Twelve of their 19 home wins have been by a goal. Dave Tippett has them playing good defence, but their numbers aren’t stellar. In fact, when you look at them at face value, they aren’t great. Of the eight teams currently in the playoffs in the west, only the Flames have scored fewer goals than the Coyotes, 157. Yet, the Dogs have surrendered more goals than all of them except Nashville and LA.

The Coyotes rarely lose the tight games. Twenty of their wins are one-goal wins, and they’ve lost by three four times, got blown out by four goals three times and lost by five once. Their PP is 27th in the league and their PK is 10th. The Coyotes don’t wow you with anything, although Ilya Bryzgalov has a very respectable 2.33 GAA and .919 SV%. His numbers are good, but are on par with the other top-ten goalies in the game. The fact is, the Coyotes don’t draw big crowds, they don’t have a 20-goal scorer, they aren’t the toughest team but they win which is the most important stat.

D WILL GET A BOOST

The Oilers are 1-0-1 v. the Dog this year, and they will get a boost on the backend as both Ladislav Smid and Steve Staios will play tonight. If Staios can stay healthy up to the deadline, can Steve Tambellini find a trading partner for him? He has one more year at $2.7 million and that will make it tough to move him, but if Ales Kotalik and his $3 million can be moved, then Tambellini should be able to find a taker for Staios.

GAGNER ON WAY HOME

The injuries keep mounting for the Oilers, as Sam Gagner will return to Edmonton to have his knee looked at. Gagner was hurt in Denver and has been the Oilers best player in 2010. The Oilers sit comfortably in 30th place, with a seven-point lead on Toronto and Carolina , so they didn’t really need Gagner to miss games to ensure their 48.1% chance of drafting first. Gagner needs to play, and the Oilers are hoping there is no major damage and that he’ll be able to return after the Olympic break.

With Gagner going down, Marc Pouliot will get a shot on the first line.

Pouliot has played better the last few games along side Jacques and Stortini. They’ve played a simple game and won lots of one-on-one battles. I’ll give Pouliot credit, he has used his size more recently and that has helped him. We’ll see if he plays the same way alongside Penner tonight. And it looks like Gilbert Brule and Robert Nilsson will draw back in with Gagner and Mike Comrie coming out. Not entirely sure on Brule, but that’s what it looked like to the boys watching the skate this morning in Phoenix .

NEEDS TO HELP OUT GM

Everyone is expecting Ethan Moreau to be moved before the deadline, and while he has played a bit better of late, he could help his GM by actually registering a point. He’s gone 33 games since scoring a goal, and he has two assists in 31 games. He’s never been a big scorer, but he needs to produce more than that. GAINEY GONE Interesting to hear that at 2 p.m. MST Bob Gainey will step down as GM of the Canadiens.

The rumours are already flying out of Montreal that Gainey was told to either trade Carey Price or step down. That seems like a stretch to me, but it will be interesting to see what the Canadiens do moving forward with their goaltending. It seems obvious that one of Price or Halak will be dealt. But, the Habs have to answer the million dollar question and pick the right one to trade.

I’m guessing Interim GM, Pierre Gauthier’s phone will be ringing of the hook once the press conference is over.