COYOTES (23-18-9) at OILERS (15-31-6)
Season series: This is the fourth of five games between the Phoenix Coyotes and Edmonton Oilers. The Coyotes won the first three, most recently rallying for a 4-3 overtime win at Jobing.com Arena on New Year's Eve.
Big story: With 32 games left in the regular season, the Coyotes will enter the game six points behind eighth-place Minnesota in the Western Conference standing with Dallas, Nashville and Winnipeg stalking them closely from behind.
Coyotes: onight's game is the second of a three-game Western Canada road trip that concludes Sunday against the Vancouver Canucks.
The Coyotes are currently riding an 11-game point streak vs. the Oilers. This marks the third-longest point streak against the same opponent in franchise history. The Coyotes last lost in regulation to Edmonton on Jan. 25, 2011 (4-3).
Center Martin Hanzal, who has missed the past two games because of a lower-body injury, took part in the team's morning skate on Friday and likely will return to the lineup.
"It’s a noticeable difference when he’s out," Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "If he can (return), it’d be a big positive for us."
Goalie Mike Smith is expected to make his seventh consecutive start.
Phoenix lost 3-2 to the Calgary Flames on Wednesday. It was the Coyotes' sixth loss in the past eight games and their fifth straight on the road (0-3-2).
The Coyotes have scored seven goals during their five-game road losing streak.
Three veterans who have struggled to produce offensively, whether at Jobing.com Arena or on the road, are Radim Vrbata, Mike Ribeiro and Shane Doan. Vrbata has not scored a goal in 13 games. Ribeiro scored a goal Monday against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but has four goals in his past 20 games. Doan scored Wednesday to snap a seven-game goalless drought.
"We've been down lately in a lot of games and we've got to be better," Doan said. "If you look at our record, we've been average if that and we've got a lot better team than an average team."
Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson skated in a season-high 32:52 of ice time at Calgary on Wednesday. He leads the team and ranks 13th in the NHL at 25:15 per game.
Oilers: Edmonton has lost five straight games (0-4-1), the most recent a 2-1 defeat to the Vancouver Canucks in Ben Scrivens' first game in goal for the Oilers at Rexall Place. They have scored 10 goals during the slide.
Head Coach Dallas Eakins wants his team to be more aggressive against Phoenix to generate more offense.
"We're trying to slowly ramp up our system play to be more aggressive," Eakins said after practice Thursday. "That will be the plan against Phoenix. Phoenix is a team that has annually seemed to check very well, but a team that they kind of sit back in the weeds a lot and they wait for you to make a mistake and they jump on it, then they go back and sit in the weeds and wait for the next one to come along. We have to be guarded with that. But the thing I struggle with is I don't want us to play so guarded that we're just coming in and dumping in pucks and playing a sit-back game. We're not built very well to play that kind of game."
It's not clear if Scrivens, a 27-year-old Spruce Grove, Alberta, native, acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 15 in exchange for a third-round draft pick, or former Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov will be in net against Phoenix.
Who's hot: Coyotes center Antoine Vermette has three goals in the past five games. … Oilers forward Jordan Eberle has scored a goal in three straight games.
Injury report: Hanzal (lower body) and defenseman David Schlemko (upper body) are day-to-day. Both missed the game Wednesday. … Edmonton forwards Ales Hemsky (left ankle) and Nail Yakupov (concussion) and defenseman Philip Larsen (illness) have returned to practice. Hemsky, who has missed three games, is doubtful for the game. Yakupov, who has missed two games, still has to pass mandatory concussion tests. Larsen, who has not played since Dec. 19 and remains on injured reserve, is considered day-to-day.
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