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PREVIEW: Oilers at Coyotes

Oilers close out 2013 calendar year in Phoenix against the Coyotes

Tuesday, 31.12.2013 / 3:57 PM / Boston Pizza Game Preview
By Marc Ciampa  - edmontonoilers.com
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PREVIEW: Oilers at Coyotes
Oilers close out 2013 calendar year in Phoenix against the Coyotes
TV: Sportsnet Oilers
RADIO: 630 CHED & Oilers Radio Network
PUCK DROP: 7:08 p.m. MST
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INSIDE THE OILERS

Get caught up on the most recent line combinations and other storylines. 

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AT THE MORNING SKATE

GLENDALE, AZ - The Edmonton Oilers wrap up the 2013 calendar year with a game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale.

The team did not run lines during the morning skate but it is expected that they will go with the same ones that were used yesterday at practice in Leduc:

Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Perron
Horak - Gagner - Eberle
Smyth - Gordon - Hemsky
Gazdic - Lander Joensuu

Notably absent from the lines above is the name Nail Yakupov. Oilers head coach Eakins spoke at length yesterday about why he isn't playing tonight and did also say that is was highly likely the trip to the press box would last only one game for the Russian winger.

"We're going to get him back in the lineup as soon as possible. I'm going to do some things differently and he's going to do some things differently. If he holds up his end of the bargain his ice time will increase," said Eakins.

Ilya Bryzgalov gets his second straight start tonight. Eakins said that he has a general idea of who's going to play when in net over the next six weeks.

"We're going to have Bryz go tonight. We've outlined the starts right up until the (Olympic) break and are going to try and stick with it as best we can."

SECOND HALF BEGINS

The second half of the NHL season begins tonight for the Oilers. It is an opportunity for the team to work on a number of elements in its game as it tries to improve within.

"We need to get better in a number of departments," Eakins began. "The message from the start of the season won't change. Any team that I ever coach, the goal is to win every game. If that's not your goal there's big problems."

Oilers captain Andrew Ference agreed with his coach.

"You have to try to win each game," said Ference. "We need to continue down a proper path so we can build something and build a foundation. Like we've referred to a few times in the first half, it's not all little picture you have to look at the big picture and what we're trying to accomplish as well in building a more consistent game going forward.
 
"It's a little of both," Ference continued. "The short term goals of game-to-game stuff and also building something."

The captain was asked where he sees improvements in the team.

"At the start of the year, it's night and day in terms of responsible play. The curve for every team is going the same way. Every team is getting better so we are improving a lot compared to some of the mistakes that we've made and some of the games. To come from some of those games to the last little while, there's been a lot more consistent play and a lot more attention to some of the defensive details. It's an encouraging sign."

-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com


NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW

OILERS (13-24-4) at COYOTES (19-10-9)

TV: SNET-EDM, FS-A

Last 10: Edmonton 3-6-1; Phoenix 3-2-5

Season series: This is the third of five games between these new Pacific Division rivals. The Phoenix Coyotes won the first two and are 13-2-2 overall against the Edmonton Oilers under coach Dave Tippett.

Big story: The Coyotes and Oilers will look to get a jump on their New Year's resolutions Tuesday at Jobing.com Arena. Phoenix kicks off a season-long six-game homestand, and Edmonton starts a three-game road swing.

The Coyotes are still in playoff position in eighth place in the Western Conference, but have fallen to fifth in the highly competitive Pacific with losses in six of seven. Phoenix has gone beyond regulation in five straight games, losing four.

The Oilers will be looking for at least a point in their fourth straight game.

Team Scope:

Oilers: Edmonton has endured an up-and-down season, with the downs lasting longer than the ups. Right now, the Oilers are trending upward with points in three straight. However, they have one road victory against a team currently holding a playoff spot, a 4-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 22, after 22 games in opponents' buildings.

Edmonton will play three straight road games against teams currently in playoff positions beginning Tuesday. The Oilers should bring some confidence to the road swing after outscoring their past three opponents 11-5 in going 2-0-1. Edmonton beat the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames before losing to the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 in a shootout Saturday.

Former Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov made 35 saves Saturday, and Taylor Hall had a goal and an assist to help push the game to a shootout.

Nail Yakupov will be a healthy scratch for Edmonton on Tuesday, and Roman Horak will make his Oilers debut.

Coyotes: As the race to the postseason heats up, the games get tighter and two points are harder to grasp. This has been especially true for the Coyotes, who have played beyond 60 minutes for five straight games (1-0-4). The five-game stretch includes losses against the NHL's worst team, the Buffalo Sabres, and the League's best, the Anaheim Ducks.

"That's five games in a row in overtime [and] we have only got one extra point, so that's a little disappointing," coach Dave Tippett said.

Down 2-0 late in the third period against Anaheim on Saturday, the Coyotes scored twice in the final 4:34 to force overtime. It was the second time in two nights the Coyotes erased late deficits. On Friday, Radim Vrbata scored in the final minutes to help push the San Jose Sharks to the shootout.

"I like the way our guys hung in there and battled," Tippett said. "Like a number of times this year, we found a way to scratch points out of situations that looked a little bleak. We'll take the point and move on."

Who's hot: Hall has five points the past three games for Edmonton. … Coyotes leading scorer Mike Ribeiro scored the tying goal Saturday against Anaheim, and has three points (one goal) his past two games. Ribeiro had three points in the most-recent game against Edmonton.

Injury report: Oilers center Mark Arcobello (ribs) is closing in on a return after missing five games, but he's still day-to-day. Defenseman Corey Potter (groin), defenseman Philip Larsen (illness) and left wing Ryan Jones (head) are out. … Coyotes captain Shane Doan (illness) skated with the team Monday, but remains on injured reserve. Defenseman Rostislav Klesla (illness) and defenseman Zbynek Michalek (lower body) remain out. The Coyotes recalled forward Chris Brown from Portland of the American Hockey League on Monday.

-- Davis Harper, NHL.com

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