By Dave Vest GLENDALE – The Coyotes will try to snap a two-game losing streak tonight when they host the Edmonton Oilers at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (47-25-6) will enter the game in fourth place in the Western Conference standings, six points behind first place San Jose and four points ahead of fifth-place Nashville.
Ilya Bryzgalov will start in goal for the Coyotes and will attempt to rebound from a sloppy performance in his last start on Tuesday when he allowed two goals on the first two shots of the game and set up a third Vancouver goal with an errant clearing pass.
The Coyotes have not won since clinching its Stanley Cup Playoffs berth on March 27 and are 1-3-1 in their past five games. That’s not exactly what Head Coach Dave Tippett had in mind during this fine-tune-our-game stretch before the playoffs start.
“We have to be ready,” Tippett said. “We have to focus on what we have to do. We've lost two games in a row, and we've got to stop that right now. We're well-rested. I expect Edmonton to play a strong game, but this is a game we need to win.”
On Friday, Tippett challenged forwards other than Lee Stempniak to start scoring. Phoenix is averaging just 1.25 goals per game in its past four defeats.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Click here to listen to Tippett's remarks after Friday's practice.
Edmonton (24-46-7) will enter the game having lost four games in a row and nine in a row on the road, including a 6-3 defeat at Dallas on Friday.
Poor health has derailed the Oilers this season. They have lost 478 man games to injury. Nevertheless, the Coyotes are expecting a challenge from the Oilers as they play out the season.
“It’s still a job and even though they’re not in the playoffs guys are up for contracts or on two-way contracts and they want to solidify their position for next year,” Coyotes forward Wojtek Wolski said. “So I think we’re going to see a very hard-working team.”
Jeff Deslauriers likely will start in goal for Edmonton. He has lost five of his past six starts and given up 21 goals in those defeats.
Coyotes right wing Lee Stempniak scored 13 goals in 14 games with Phoenix in March and was named the NHL's First Star of the Month.
Oilers right wing Dustin Penner, fresh off an eye injury, notched a goal and an assist in a 6-3 loss to Dallas on Friday. Penner leads the team with 57 points.
Coyotes captain Shane Doan has not scored a goal since Jan. 31 - a span of 22 games.
Tonight's game is starting an hour later than usual because it is being televised on Hockey Night in Canada.
The Oilers already are assured of finishing last in the overall standings and could end the season with the worst record in franchise history.
“They skate well. They are a fast team and a young team... (but) if we play our game we should beat that team. It's only up to us.”