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McConnell's Blog: Coyotes Still Very Much in Hunt for Playoff Spot

Tuesday, 04.9.2013 / 4:01 PM MT / McConnell's Blog
By Matt McConnell
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McConnell\'s Blog: Coyotes Still Very Much in Hunt for Playoff Spot

Greetings from Edmonton!

The Coyotes began a critical three-game Western Canadian road trip with a 2-0 loss to Vancouver on Monday night. It wasn't the start Phoenix was looking for but with better efforts against Edmonton (Wednesday) and Calgary (Friday), the Coyotes can keep themselves in the hunt for the playoffs.

Matt McConnell

The young, high-flying Oilers will be a tough challenge Wednesday night at Rexall Place. Like the Coyotes, the Oilers are hungry for a postseason berth and will enter the game with eyes on the eighth-place playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Edmonton has been up and down as of late. They left on a three-game road trip late last week having won five straight games. But they return to northern Alberta having lost three in a row and trying to rediscover their winning swagger. Taylor Hall was lights out on their recent homestand, tallying four goals and six points. However, he went pointless in the final three games of the trip. Rookie forward Nail Yakupov has a game-winning goal this season for Edmonton against Phoenix and will carry a two-game point-scoring streak into the game. As a team, the Oilers have outscored the opposition by eight goals in first periods, making the start of Wednesday’s game critical for both teams.

For the Coyotes, it’s a “One Game at a Time” mentality these days even though the big picture view shows wins in Edmonton and Calgary would allow them to take four of a possible six points on this road trip. If 54 points will indeed be the total needed to make the postseason, the team will need to go 7-2-0 over the last nine games. A 6-0-3 run or an 8-1-0 mark would get them to 55 and 56 points respectively. It’s some heavy lifting, but it’s not impossible for a team that posted an 11-0-2 record in February a season ago en route to the Pacific Division title.

Photo by Getty Images.

It’s also a positive to have a healthy Mike Smith back between the pipes for the stretch run. On Saturday, he shut out Colorado, and he looked brilliant at times in his 40-saves performance on Monday in Vancouver and earned the No. 1 Star of the Game honor in the loss.

Also keep in mind the Coyotes have dominated the Oilers (5-1-1) at Rexall Place during Dave Tippett’s three-plus seasons as head coach. They will look to keep that success going on Wednesday night in the most significant game they will play at that rink in his tenure behind the bench.

Fans don’t forget that Wednesday night’s game vs. the Oilers will be on FOX Sports Arizona Plus. The game was not on the original broadcast schedule but was added later to help you better follow the Coyotes as they continue their quest for the playoffs.

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