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AT THE MORNING SKATE
The Edmonton Oilers open a two-game road trip tonight in Phoenix – the team’s final two games before the all-star break.
It poses another tough test for the Oilers as they take on a team – much like Nashville - that they’ve had trouble with over the past few seasons.
“I think from a systematic approach, yes (there are similarities between the Coyotes and Predators) and from a team that’s deeply committed to how they have to play, yes,” stated Oilers head coach Tom Renney.
“I think they have a little bit more arsenal, in terms of firepower and they have pretty balanced scoring since they all play the game the same way,” Renney continued.
In terms of lineup, the Oilers are going with the same one they had on Sunday night against Nashville and that includes Devan Dubnyk in goal.
“It’s great. I’m not going to change anything as far as the way I prepare or what I do. I’m just continuing to try to give the guys in the dressing room confidence in me, as well as the coaching staff,” said Dubnyk
Despite the team’s overall struggles, Dubnyk has been very good of late. Throughout the month of January, he has a record of 2-1-1 with a 2.21 goals-against average and .927 save percentage over four starts.
Perhaps the only black mark on Dubnyk’s record this season has been in the shootout (no wins, five losses), which is ironic as in past years he has always been very successful in the showdown.
“I’m very surprised. It’s just a weird situation with the shootout. I haven’t had much success this year but it’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing and had success doing,” Dubnyk noted. “I’m going to continue to work in practice. Eventually it’s got to come.”
LOOKING FOR THAT ONE-GOAL
Over the team’s last 16 games, they’ve only won two times. Of those 14 losses, 11 have come by one goal or one plus an empty-netter with three of those coming in a shootout.
“We’re playing well against good hockey teams but we’ve got to start to turn and get some wins out of it. Everybody here feels pretty good about being able to do that,” said Dubnyk.
Of course, the team’s answer to their one-goal loss woes lies right with the power play. During the aforementioned 16-game stretch, they’ve only score twice with the man advantage in 57 opportunities (3.5%).
Coach Renney indicated following the morning skate that power play success would be a big key to a victory tonight.
“It wouldn’t hurt. It’d be great to see that power play have some success, no question about that,” he began.
“The net is the end point, both for people and for pucks. We’ve got to have the wherewithal and the courage to stand around in there and get mucking for those loose pucks.”
Tonight marks Edmonton’s first game back in Phoenix since Renney’s now-infamous post-game rant after a 5-0 drubbing back on November 23.
The team responded immediately with a 6-1-1 record over their next eight games and despite not getting the results after that, they have certainly played better with only a 6-1 loss to Vancouver on January 7 being of the blowout variety.
“That’s history. We’ve learned from that obviously and that’s what you want to have happen,” Renney began.
“Kudos to the guys for responding like that. That game is all gone and what we’re worried about tonight now is exactly how we choose to play these guys.”
“We all have to elevate our game in these next 35. That’s what will define our team and this season. This is a real good opportunity to start it here, with a team that dominated us the last time we were here."
Goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who was on the other end of that 5-0 loss, agreed.
“That was certainly not one of our best efforts by any means this year. It was a little while ago but certainly fresh on our minds,” said Dubnyk. “I’ve got no question that we’ll come with it tonight, for sure.”
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
Last 10 -- Edmonton 2-7-1; Phoenix 6-3-1.
Season Series: This is the third of four contests between the teams. Phoenix won the first two meetings with a 4-3 shootout decision on Nov. 19 and 5-0 shutout victory on Nov. 23. Following Tuesday night's tilt in Phoenix, the teams will meet one more time this season on Mar. 17.
Big Story: The Edmonton Oilers continue to anchor the bottom of the Western Conference Standings with just 36 points on the season despite participating in some very tight contests recently. Meanwhile, the Phoenix Coyotes are finding ways to maintain a playoff spot with the 6th slot in the logjam that is the Western Conference standings, but that could all change if the Coyotes don’t continue on their steady pace. Plus, historically, the Oilers have dominated play in meetings between these two clubs with a record of 117-55-5 all-time.
Oilers: The Oilers start with a clean slate on Tuesday night in Phoenix as they begin a two-game road trip and try to forget about last week's winless three-game homestand.
Despite going 0-3 in the homestand, the Oilers were within one shootout goal of defeating the streaking Nashville Predators on Sunday night. The Oilers twice came back in the third period to tie the game. Rookie Taylor Hall notched a goal at the 16:13 mark of the third period to force the game into overtime where Hall had several good scoring chances but was unable to convert on them. Unfortunately for the Oilers, Nashville's Pekka Rinne stopped all three Oiler shooters in the shootout.
As disappointing as the shootout loss was, the Oilers front-office is thinking about this season not on a game-by-game basis, but in the long-term.
"We have to learn how to play this game properly," coach Tom Renney told the Edmonton Journal. "Whatever our season looks like at the end of the day, we have to have gotten better. We have to be able to pay attention to those parts of the game that are incumbent with being a winner over the long haul. That's really what this first season will be all about."
Coyotes: The Coyotes just split a home-and-home series with the Los Angeles Kings winning the first tilt 2-0 at Staples Center in L.A., but dropping the second contest 4-3 at home.
After outworking the Kings on Thursday night in the shutout win, the Coyotes gave up three early goals in the Saturday night contest and were forced to rally back but they just came up short in the 4-3 loss.
"I give our guys a ton of credit," coach Dave Tippett told the Arizona Republic. "They mustered up a lot of energy to get us back in the game. . . . They were a very desperate team. You could tell that they were a very motivated team."
It was the Coyotes' third straight loss on home ice after enjoying a four-game win streak that started on Jan. 10.
Who's Hot: Taylor Hall was named as the second star of the game in Sunday's contest when he scored the game-tying goal and notched three blocked shots and a number of scoring chances in the extra frame. He continues to lead the Oilers in goals this season with 15. … Lee Stempniak scored a pair of goals in the Coyotes' last game. He is currently on a five-game scoring streak with eight points in that time.
Injury Report Edmonton forward Ales Hemsky (concussion) is out indefinitely, as well as forward Gilbert Brule and defenseman Ryan Whitney with ankle injuries. Rookie Jordan Eberle (ankle) is day-to-day … The Coyotes are without defenseman David Schlemko, who is on IR with an undisclosed injury, and center Vernon Fiddler (upper-body injury). … Defenseman Ed Jovanovski (lower body) is expected to make his return from on Tuesday night.
Stat Pack: The Coyotes have outscored the Oilers 16-5 while winning the last four meetings at Jobing.com Arena. However, Edmonton has the all-time scoring edge over Phoenix with a 825-660 record.
Puck Drop: Jovanovski, who has missed the past five games because of a lower-body injury suffered on Jan. 13 vs. Toronto, skated with teammates on Monday and is hoping to return to the lineup for Tuesday's home game against Edmonton. Jovanovski has 14 points (5 goals, 9 assists) on the season so far.
-- Deborah Francisco - NHL.com Staff Writer