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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 16.0: Coyotes and Oilers Hoping To Be Competitive (7pm MT, SNW)

The Coyotes have missed the playoffs seven years in a row. Edmonton has only made it once in that span. The Edmonton Oilers and Arizona Coyotes haven’t made the playoffs in the same season in 20 years. In 1999/2000, the Coyotes finished sixth in the Western Conference with 90 points and the Oilers were seventh with 88. Both lost in five games in the first round.

The last time these two organizations each won a playoff series in the same year was in April, 1987. The Jets defeated the Calgary Flames 4-2 in the Smythe Division semi-final, while Edmonton defeated the Los Angeles Kings 4-1. The Oilers swept the Jets 4-0 in the Smythe final en route to their third Stanley Cup.

Edmonton and Arizona have virtually no rivalry. Since Winnipeg relocated to Phoenix for the start of the 1996/1997 season, the Oilers and Coyotes have never met in the playoffs. Both franchises have endured a lot of losing. There has been very little animosity, because they rarely played meaningful games.

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That could change this season.

The Oilers sit first in the Pacific Division with 21 points after a 10-4-1 start. The Coyotes sit sixth in the ultra-competitive Pacific Division with 17 points and a 8-4-1 record. The Coyotes have played two fewer games than the Oilers and Golden Knights, three fewer than Anaheim and four fewer than Calgary.

For the first time in 20 years, the Oilers and Coyotes could be battling for not only a playoff spot, but maybe even home ice advantage.

Suddenly these games could become meaningful, and while it is only November 4th, I’d say tonight’s game has more intrigue than we’ve seen in a Coyotes/Oilers meeting in a long time.

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Both teams are getting great goaltending. In nine starts Darcy Kuemper has a .942sv% and a 1.67 GAA, while Mike Smith sits with .931sv% and 2.12 GAA in nine starts, and Mikko Koskinen has a .922sv% and 2.39 GAA in six starts. Kuemper and Koskinen will play tonight.

The Coyotes don’t have the offensive star power of Leon Draisaitl or Connor McDavid, who sit second and fourth in NHL scoring with 25 and 23 points respectively. Conor Garland leads the Yotes with seven goals, while Nick Schmaltz is their point leader at 12, but they win games by playing sound defensively and having an aggressive forecheck.

The Coyotes have seven goals and 29 points from their blueline, while the Oilers have six goals and 26 points from theirs. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a bonafide #1 D-man and he will see a lot of McDavid and Draisaitl tonight. OEL plays with Jason Demers while Jakob Chychrun and Alex Goligoski anchor the second pair. They have four really solid puck movers, and they get the puck to their forwards quickly. They transition really well, and the Oilers need to be aware of that.

The Oilers great start was necessary when you see how well the Coyotes and four other Pacific foes are playing. Tonight starts a stretch where the Oilers face Pacific opponents in nine of their next 14 games.

After many years, excluding 2017, the Oilers divisional games are shaping up to be very important, and that even includes tilts against the Coyotes. It will take some time, and likely a matchup in the playoffs, before the games between these two have heightened animosity, but at least it looks like this year they will have significant meaning in the standings. That should make them more enjoyable to play and to watch.

LINEUP…

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Oilers

Draisaitl-McDavid-Chiasson
Neal-RNH-Kassian
Khaira-Haas-Gagner
Granlund-Cave-P.Russell

Nurse-Bear
Klefbom-Persson
K.Russell-Benning

Koskinen

Dave Tippett switched up his top three lines today. “We are trying to get him (Chiasson) going a bit. Looking for some other tweaks as well. We have had some guys play better lately. JJ (Khaira) has played well and taken some more minutes,” said Tippett on the changes.

It makes sense to put Neal back with RNH as Neal and Chiasson didn’t seem to gel right away, so we’ll see if the tweaks work. No doubt the Oilers have to play better than they did against Pittsburgh, but good teams find ways to win games they shouldn’t, rather than lose games they play well in.

Saturday was the 26th time an Oilers goalie faced 50 or more shots in a game. The Oilers are 13-9-4 (ties) in those games. Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen has each won a game this year facing 50+ shots. Anders Nilsson and Laurent Brossoit did it in 2015, and both lost despite allowing only three and two goals respectively.

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Between January 29th, 2014, and March 28th, 2014, Ben Scrivens faced 50 shots in a game three times. He stopped 59 shots on January 29th against the Sharks and earned a shutout. On March 9th he lost 4-2 to the Kings while facing 50 shots, but then he defeated the Ducks 4-3 in OT when he faced 51 shots.

Devan Dubnyk in 2010, Dwayne Roloson  in 2009, Bob Essensa in 1999, Curtis Joseph in 1996, Bill Ranford (seven times between 1991-1994), Ron Tugnutt in 1993, Grant Fuhr (four times between 1982-1985), Andy Moog (twice in 1983) and Ron Low in 1980 were the others to face a barrage of shots.

Bill Ranford was the only reason the Oilers didn’t get blown out every night during the dark years in the mid-1990s. He was a battler.

Since the start of the 2016/2017 season, the NHL has had 54 games where a goalie faced 50+ shots. Those goalies are 30-11-13 in those games. It was the eighth time in his career Smith has faced 50+ shots. He is 3-3-2 and faced a career high 60 shots against Columbus on December 3rd, 2016, as a member of the Coyotes. He lost 3-2 in OT.

Coyotes

Hayton-Dvorak-Kessel
Keller-Schmaltz-Garland
Grabner-Stepan-Hinostroza
Crouse-Soderberg-Fischer

Ekman-Larsson-Demers
Chychrun-Goligoski
Ness-Oesterle

Kuemper

Kuemper has only allowed three goals once this season. He’s been outstanding in his nine starts.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: A low scoring affair. Oilers skate away with a 3-2 win. Koskinen improves to 4-0 on home ice.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: There isn’t much animosity on the ice. We don’t see many powerplays either. The Oilers are 22nd in PP chances while the Coyotes are 27th.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: For the first time in his career Leon Draisaitl scores a goal in six consecutive games as he buries his 14th of the season.

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