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GDB 81.0: Oilers and Coyotes Ready for an Emotional Night (8pm MT, SNW)

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Jason Gregor
17 days ago
The Edmonton Oilers have nothing to gain in the standings tonight.
Win or lose, they are locked into second place in the Pacific and will begin the first round of the playoffs on home ice. They still don’t know their schedule for the opening round as only one Western Conference matchup is secured — Winnipeg will host Colorado. If Dallas picks up one point tonight, then Vancouver will be the second seed and play Nashville, but we won’t know who the Oilers play until tomorrow night. Vegas is currently third in the Pacific with 98 points, while LA has 97. Vegas needs to defeat Anaheim tomorrow and they will play the Oilers in round one. If they lose in regulation or OT/SO, and LA defeats Chicago, then the Oilers and Kings will battle for the third consecutive season.
Be sure to check out the latest NHL playoff odds with online sportsbook Betway.
The Coyotes will not be an easy opponent for the Oilers, and that is probably a good thing.
In the past 12 days the Coyotes have defeated Vancouver, Vegas and Edmonton. They are 6-3 in their last nine home games and have outscored their opponents 35-25. The Coyotes have been out of the playoff race for over two months, but they’ve been competitive down the stretch. They are fourth in goals/game since March 1st at 3.68. The Oilers are third at 3.78. Despite all their offence, they combined for five goals in the Coyotes’ 3-2 OT win last Friday in Edmonton.
With the heightened emotion in the building tonight, I sense we will see more than five goals. No one knows when, or if, the NHL will return full-time to Arizona, and with the players and coaches knowing tonight is the final game, you know it will be emotional.
“We want to play our last game with class, with respect,” said Coyotes head coach Andre Tourigny. No coach is prepared for this situation and Tourigny admitted he isn’t sure what he will say when he addresses the team before the game. “Will I think about what will be the speech before the game? I guess I have to, but I don’t know if I will be creative enough to find a really unique way to present that,” he responded to Mark Spector’s question.
The Coyotes have been quite competitive since the rumours began last week that they’d be leaving. The won in Vancouver. They defeated the Oilers, before losing 6-5 in Calgary. Credit the players for battling through the adversity. There is a lot of uncertainty, especially for players with families. And Tourigny’s message will be simple.
“Give the best effort that the crowd can expect. We want to make sure we’re remembered as a group who fought with every last ounce we had in our body,” he said.
While the Oilers have nothing to play for in the standings, they will need to match the energy and emotion of the Coyotes. The crowd will be loud. It won’t be a playoff game, but it will likely be much more intense than tomorrow’s game in Colorado when the Oilers and Avalanche will just want to get through the game unscathed.
Tonight will be different. For the Oilers, they can rally around the fact they could skate away victorious in the final game in Arizona. They’ve won nine of their last 11 games in Arizona. Overall the Oilers have won 25 of their 51 games on the road v. the Coyotes. They’ve lost 16, have one tie and nine OT/SO losses. A victory tonight would give them a .500 winning%, and a memory they likely won’t forget. It isn’t very often you play the final game in a city.

GAME DAY ARTICLE PRESENTED BY BETWAY

LINEUPS…

Oilers

Henrique– McDavid – Hyman
RNH – Draisaitl – Foegele
Holloway – McLeod – Perry
Janmark – Carrick – Brown
Ekholm – Bouchard
Kulak – Stecher
Broberg – Desharnais
Pickard
Paul Coffey has elected to rest his top D pair tonight. Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci will get the night off (and keyboard warriors will race to the comment section, because they have no sense of humour). It would make sense to rest Ekholm and Bouchard tomorrow. Nurse and Ceci struggled in February and March, but since the Dallas game, both have responded well. Since that game, Ceci’s GF-GA at 5×5 is 11-1 and Nurse is 10-2. Nurse has played 107 minutes, second most on the blue line behind Bouchard’s 108.
Bouchard and Ekholm have been more consistent all season, and they play more with McDavid’s line, as they should. But I’d argue the play of Nurse and Ceci will determine how far the Oilers go. If they struggle it will be a challenge to go deep, but if they play like they did from November to January and over the final 10 days, the Oilers will be a tough out. Nurse is best when he doesn’t try to do too much. Just play within himself. Ceci has looked much better since late in March, and I wonder if trade rumours played a factor in his February swoon. Regardless of what happened, they are playing better lately and it must continue in the playoffs.
Philip Broberg will get some NHL action tonight and tomorrow, before likely heading back to Bakersfield for the AHL playoffs. It is wise to get him in. If the Oilers suffer an injury on the blue line, I won’t be surprised if Broberg is the one who draws in the lineup in the post-season.
Evander Kane will rest for another game, but he will be ready for the playoffs. No forward changes from Monday.

Coyotes

Keller – Kerfoot – Schmaltz
Crouse – Cooley – Guenther
Maccelli – McBain – Doan
O’Brien – Jenik – Carcone
Moser – Durzi
Valimaki – Kesselring
Kolyachonok – Brown
Vejmelka
The Coyotes will stick with much of the same lineup they’ve had during their recent hot-streak. Their top-two lines have been very productive the past few weeks, and the Coyotes will be amped up to give their fans a memorable send off. The Oilers will want to ruin the party, and while this game means nothing in the standings, I sense it might be more entertaining than most meaningless games down the stretch.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers win 50 games for the fifth time in franchise history. It is the second time they win 50 in consecutive seasons and the first since 1986 and 1987. Oilers win 5-3.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Draisaitl picks up his 40th power play point of the season.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: For the second consecutive season, Broberg scores a goal in his second-last game of the year. It is his first goal since he scored on April 8th, 2023.

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