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Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 26.0: Dessert Dogs > Desert Dogs (6pm MT, SNW)

Welcome, friends, to the second half of the back-to-back weekend, where our beloved Edmonton Oilers are only hours away from facing off against the Arizona Coyotes.

Heading into the 2019-20 season, how many people would have ever imagined that it would be the Edmonton Oilers and Arizona Coyotes at the head of the pack in the Pacific Division? No one on earth — that’s the answer. I mean, if we’re being truly honest with ourselves, would we Oilers fans have dreamt that our boys would grab and maintain the division lead in the days leading up to American Thanksgiving? Even though I was pounding Kool-Aid all summer like it was my own personal life essence, I’ll readily admit that I never saw this start coming. I honestly believed that the boys would be in the mix a lot more than they were over the past two seasons, but I didn’t see this. But now that we’ve all gotten a taste of the good life, the only way to keep scratching the itch is for the boys to keep winning, and scoring two points against the Coyotes would be about as satisfying as it can get.

Now that I’ve got the tire pumping and sunshine out of the way, it’s important to remember how massive these two points are for the Oilers. As of this morning, the Coyotes are only three back of Edmonton in the Pacific Division standings and a regulation win would be a huge result for either side, and obviously, I’d like to see the Oilers be the ones that come out on top. After a convincing win in Vegas, we’re back on track for a successful road trip with four of six points already in the bank and the potential for a perfect back-to-back weekend only hours away. But before we get ahead of ourselves, we have to remember that this is the Coyotes we’re talking about and we have to keep in mind how giving up an early lead to them will end up as a trap-filled nightmare so it’s imperative to get off to a strong start. Seeing as Arizona also played yesterday — they beat the Kings 3-2 in an afternoon game in Los Angeles — there’s no excuse for being outworked because it’s the second game in as many nights.

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As you’ll see in the numbers section below, the Oilers are scoring a lot more than the Coyotes do but they’re also being scored on in higher volumes as well. Those stats tell me that this game is probably going to be about the mistakes and whether or not the Oilers can avoid making them and giving the Coyotes chances on goal that they don’t deserve. If the boys can limit their turnovers, make smart choices with the puck, and not get frustrated by a hot goaltender then they’re probably going to do alright. If they can’t do those things, then second place team in the Pacific Division may get just that much closer in the rearview mirror.

THE NUMBERS

OILERS COYOTES
RECORD 15-7-3 14-8-2
WIN/LOSS STREAK W1 W1
LAST 10 GAMES 5-3-2 5-4-1
GOALS FOR 81 68
GOALS AGAINST 70 54
POWER PLAY% 31.5 17.6
PENALTY KILL% 87.6 81.4
AVG. SHOTS/FOR 28.9 30.1
AVG. SHOTS/AGAINST 30.7 32.3
TEAM SAVE% .917 .944
CORSI FOR% 48.17 47.15
PDO 1.010 1.020
TEAM SHOOTING% 9.34 7.62
EXPECTED GOALS FOR% 49.99 47.46

Numbers courtesy of Natural Stat Trick (fancies at 5×5)

LINEUPS…

Oilers

Draisaitl – McDavid – Kassian
Nygard – RNH – Neal
P. Russell – Sheahan – Archibald
Granlund – Haas – Chiasson

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Nurse – Bear
Klefbom – Jones
Russell – Larsson

Koskinen

At the time of posting, there haven’t been any updates on what the lines will look like tonight since there’s no morning skate on the second half of a back-to-back set, so I’m going to assume that we’ll have the same combos for now. In net, Mikko Koskinen will get his 11th start of the season and first appearance since he finished off the game in LA in relief of Mike Smith. If there are any changes, I’ll be sure to jump in and edit.

Coyotes

Keller – Stepan – Kessel
Dvorak – Schmaltz – Garland
Crouse – Soderberg – Hinostroza
Hayton – Richardson – Fischer

Ekman-Larsson – Demers
Chychrun – Goligoski
Ness – Oesterle

Kuemper

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Looking at the Coyotes’ stats, their offence is spread through the top three lines and it will be up to the Oilers’ depth to match up what’s going on there. At the top end, Arizona has nothing remotely comparable the numbers Connor and Leon are putting up, but as things get a lot tighter as you move down through the lineup. Call me captain obvious on this lukewarm take, but you have to think depth scoring is going to play a part in the final result. Lawson Crouse left yesterday’s game against LA after a scary fall but I haven’t been able to find out if he’ll be back in tonight or not.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Last Word on Hockey:

The last time these two teams met up, the Coyotes managed to sneak out with an overtime win. Edmonton will surely remember this and aren’t likely to let it happen again. To be more specific, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl won’t let it happen again. The duo has been truly incredible, blessing the fans with historical play on a nightly basis. They’ve established themselves as the best players in the league. Through the last 10 days (in five games) McDavid has netted an incredible 15 points, while Draisaitl is close behind with 11 of his own. McDavid is also currently on a 10-game point streak.

The duo has been magical but they’ll face off against an equally magical goaltender. In a recent poll of NHL.com writersDarcy Kuemper topped the league’s goalies in Vezina Trophy voting. In fact, he almost doubled the votes received by any other goalie.

That’s a truly amazing statement considering Kuemper hadn’t solidified his starting role officially until this season. With the role, though, he’s very much impressed. Through 15 games, Kuemper currently has an amazing, league-low, 1.93 goals-against-average. He also has a .935 save percentage, good for second in the league behind 2019 Vezina nominee Robin Lehner.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

Game Day Prediction: The Oilers get a strong performance from Mikko Koskinen and it lays the foundation for a 3-2 victory.

Obvious Game Day Prediction: Connor and Leon hook up on a perfectly executed 2-on-1 goal.

Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: Seeing as it’s Grey Cup Sunday and the arena is packed with Canadians, the Coyotes show part of the football game on the Jumbotron before puck drop. The Americans in the crowd get confused about why the Blue Bombers had to cross the border to fly to Calgary from Fargo North Dakota, but the friendly surrounding snowbirds are happy to explain that Winnipeg doesn’t have an airport.

THE 2019 BLACKOUT COLLECTION

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We’ve upgraded every aspect of this year’s gear and we cannot wait for you guys to check it out! The 2019 Blackout collection is coming soon and available only at NationGear.ca.