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G78 Game Notes: Oilers Need to Respect Coyotes’ Offence

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Photo credit:© Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
24 days ago
The Arizona Coyotes will likely play their final game in Edmonton tonight. Barring any last-minute changes, the Coyotes will relocate to Utah according to Dailyfaceoff’s Frank Seravalli. Their time in Arizona wasn’t very successful. From 1996-97 to the end of this season the Coyotes have the fewest wins of the 27 teams who played all 26 of those seasons. Only Columbus, which entered the league in 2000-01, has a lower point percentage than Arizona.
Despite the Coyotes’ lack of success, it will be difficult for hockey fans in Arizona to lose their team. I feel for those fans, especially the young kids, and the employees who will be without a job when the deal becomes official. It sucks, but credit the Coyotes players — despite being out of the playoff hunt for months they’ve been competitive down the stretch.
— Since March 1st the Coyotes have scored the fifth-most goals in the NHL. They’ve averaged 3.65 goals/game over their last 20 games. The problem is they still give up too many as they rank 23rd at 3.40 goals against/game. The Oilers are fourth in GF/game at 3.75, but they are third in goals against/game at 2.40. The best sign for the Oilers as they enter the playoffs is they’ve continually lowered their goals against the past seven weeks.
— Arizona has played quite well at 5×5 over its last 20 games. The team is sixth in goals for/game at 2.3 and 11th in goals against at 1.85. Their penalty kill is their main weakness. It is 31st at 70.6%. They’ve allowed 20 power play goals on 68 kills.
— The Oilers’ 5×5 play has been excellent. They are third in goals/game at 2.55, and even better defensively allowing only 1.45 goals against/game. Their penalty kill is 15th at 79%. It is the one area they’d like to improve, but at least it has been average.
— Since their bad outing in Dallas last Wednesday, the Oilers have played quite well. They’ve outscored Colorado, Calgary and Vegas 11-2 at 5×5 and 15-5 overall. The main difference I see in the Oilers this season is their ability to remain sound defensively. They will have the odd poor game, or underwhelming period, but they’ve reduced those significantly from previous seasons. The biggest improvement in the Oilers is their 5×5 defending. They are now one of the best teams in the NHL at limiting goals 5×5.
— The Oilers have also become a dominant force on home ice under Kris Knoblauch. They are 26-4-2 and have outscored their opponents 142-77. They are 10-0-1 in their last 11 home starts and only twice have they allowed more than two goals — once in their 8-3 win over Buffalo and the other was the 3-2 OT loss to Colorado.
— And that makes what makes tonight’s game and tomorrow’s game v. Vancouver much more intriguing. The Oilers don’t need to finish first in the division, but it would be a bonus. An Oilers victory tonight would put them two back of the Canucks with a game in hand. Then they meet tomorrow and if someone wins in regulation they will likely win the division. An Oilers victory would move them into a tie with the Canucks and still have a game in hand, while a Canucks victory would put them four ahead of Edmonton and the Oilers would only have three games left. It should be a great Saturday night.
— Connor McDavid skated this morning. He was on the ice for close to an hour. He said he feels good, but, as expected, he will not play tonight. He wouldn’t commit to playing tomorrow either, and said it is day-t0-day. He will be back next week, at the latest. When asked if this was a nagging injury or something he picked up in Calgary he said, “Good question. I’d say a bit of both.” He then added that he doesn’t expect it to linger into the regular season.
— Troy Stecher will play tonight in place of Cody Ceci. Ceci has a nagging injury and will get the night off. I think there is a good chance we see him play tomorrow.
— Nick Schmaltz has 25 points in the last 20 games. Clayton Keller has 11 goals and 21 points in 18 games and former Edmonton Oil King, Dylan Guenther, has 19 points in his last 20 games, including his first four-point night in Vancouver on Wednesday. And rookie Logan Cooley has 10 goals in his last 20 games. As noted above, the Coyotes can score.
— The Oilers haven’t taken bad teams lightly this year. They’ve been very good against the bottom-third (worst 11 teams). They are a combined 23-4-1 and have outscored them 114-57. They are 4-0 against Anaheim and Seattle, 3-0 v. Chicago,  3-1 v. Calgary, 2-0 v. New Jersey and Montreal, 1-0 v. Arizona, 1-0-1 v. Buffalo and they are 1-1 against Columbus, Ottawa and San Jose.

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