The Arizona Coyotes, who are in the midst of a journey through western Canada, will be in Edmonton tonight for a game with the Oilers. Here are the notes of your game day.
1 The Oilers are in the middle of a crucial stretch in which they play six of seven games at home, especially against non-playoff teams. Edmonton made a win against Florida on Thursday night to kick off the race. They are going to have Arizona tonight, they will be in Vancouver next week, and they will host Carolina and Detroit after that. The only playoff teams Edmonton will face in this stretch are Calgary and Buffalo. A good display here could put Edmonton in a place in the playoff. If they can not take advantage of these teams, it's hard to see them buying at the end of February 26.
2 Unfortunately for the Oilers, the Minnesota Wild, which I see as the strongest competition in Edmonton for the eighth place in the playoff, also has an easy schedule for the next part. Minnesota plays in Detroit, Philly, Los Angeles and Anaheim next week, making this stretch easy for the Oilers even more critical. The Oilers and Wild will also play against each other this season on February 7.
3 If the Oilers decide to buy on time, I imagine they are looking for a player with more than a year of control. While someone like Mark Stone of Ottawa would certainly help the Oilers to enter the playoff, the team is simply not good enough now to play out the first round in the first round. Going after someone like Nino Niederreiter, Tyler Toffoli or Brayden Schenn, who have several years of control, makes a lot more sense.
4 Coyotes are one of those teams the Oilers must win. They are 19-21-3, they can not score goals, and they were completely decimated by injuries. Christian Dvorak has yet to play this season, Michael Grabner is out with an eye injury and it is unclear when he will return, and Nick Schmaltz, who was acquired in the Dylan Strome deal, will also miss the entire season. In addition to these strikers, Jason Demers and Antti Raanta will also miss the rest of the season due to injury. His top scorer, Brad Richardson, has also been placed in the injured reserve on Friday and will not dress against the Oilers.
5 The Oilers have Coyotes met only once this season. He came back on January 2 and finished in 3-1 Oilers. For a brief moment, the Oilers were undefeated in 2019. This victory was emblematic of how the team had to win victories throughout the season. They scored three goals and Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were responsible for all three. This is obviously hitting a dead horse, but the depth score was non-existent all year round. But it could be worse. At least the Oilers have some players that can score. Coyotes have None.
6 One of the strangest things about Coyotes is how great they have been at keeping the disc out of the net. You would think, looking at all the young talents on your list, that would be a team that strives offensively, but fights in the defensive zone. Instead, they are the opposite. Coyotes are hideous offensively, but they are excellent at keeping the disk out of the net. Arizona ranks 29th in the league in goals and the seventh in goals against. Adin Hill, who was called back after Raanta went to the Wound Reserve, has been excellent on the net. It has a saving percentage of 916 in 12 games since the recall. Darcy Keumper was also solid as he holds a percentage of 0.914 points in 21 appearances this season.
7 Another key reason Arizona's goals against the totals are so good is the incredible penalty kick. The Coyotes allowed just 15 power goals against this season, good for a PK percentage of 88.55. Surprisingly, they scored 11 shorthanded goals, which means you're just as likely to be punctuated by the Coyotes when you have a power game because you can score a power goal over him. That said, Grabner and Richardson, who have combined seven of those 11 shorthanded goals, are out due to injury.
8 At some point, you have to assume that Arizona's offensive problems are systemic. Alex Galchenyuk, who was a consistent player of more than 20 goals in Montreal, has only seven goals for the Coyotes in his first year since being defeated. On the other hand, Max Domi, who was transferred to Montreal in that deal, has 14 goals for the Habs, a massive improvement over the nine he has had in consecutive years in Arizona. Then there's Dylan Strome, the disappointing No. 3 in 2015, when the Coyotes departed early in the season. Strome has 14 points in 22 games with the Blackhawks compared to six points he had in 20 games with the Coyotes.
9 To be fair to the Coyotes and their offensive skills, the team has been on a mini-tear lately. They scored five against the Rangers and four against the Canucks in straight wins earlier this week. The rise of the team was led by rookie Conor Garland, who has scored four goals in his last three games. In 16 NHL games (all this year), Garland has six goals, which means he is only five goals away from tying Richardson for the team's lead in the goals.
10 Finally, Kailer Yamamoto is expected to be ready to play tonight against the Coyotes. Yamamoto played in a game after being pulled out of the AHL before being sidelined due to an injury. What is the best way to deal with Yamamoto? He was originally called to replace Alex Chiasson, who returned to the lineup. Yamamoto had just taken his step in the AHL, so does it make sense to keep him with the big club?
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Source: NHL, official game page, 1/12/2019 – 7:00 am MST