By Dave Vest
With a four-game winning streak in hand, the Coyotes will play the Edmonton Oilers tonight at Rexall Place. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time).
“We had a pretty bad start to the season, let's be honest, but now we've won four games in a row and it's always a great feeling when you win the games,” center Martin Hanzal
, who stopped 39 of 40 shots in Wednesday’s 3-1 victory at Calgary, is expected to make his 16th start of the season. Bryzgalov, who ranks fourth in the NHL in ice time among goalies, has been in net for three of the four victories during the streak and has stopped 105 of 113 shots in that span.
The Coyotes (8-5-5) have scored 15 goals during their four-game win streak. Still, Bryzgalov is facing 33-plus shots per game this season, and that number needs to come down.
“Cutting down on shots per game is not as simple as it sounds,” Coyotes defenseman Adrian Aucoin
wrote in his most recent blog
. “It falls on everyone, defensemen and forwards. We also have to cut down on turnovers in our zone. There’s a laundry list of things we need to do to get that number down.”
The Coyotes are expecting to again play minus captain Shane Doan
, who has missed the past six games because of a lower-body injury he suffered vs. Dallas on Nov. 5. Doan has been skating with his teammates this week and may return to the lineup on Sunday at Vancouver.
The Oilers (4-10-3) have lost five games in a row and have been outscored 30-8 in that span. They will enter tonight’s game ranked last in the NHL in goals against per game (4.06) and last in penalty killing (67.6 percent).
|Taylor Hall. Photo by Getty Images
“It's almost like we're waiting for something poor to happen,” Oilers Head Coach Tom Renney recently told reporters. “We've got to avoid that because we could become our own worst enemy here if we're not careful. We could be the biggest opponent we face.”
Starting goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, a former Coyote, will not play because of a groin injury. That means the Coyotes will face netminder Devan Dubnyk. The 24-year-old has played just 23 NHL games and has won only four of those.
The Oilers are rebuilding with young players. Taylor Hall, whom Edmonton selected with the first overall pick at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in June, has been thrown into the fire and fared OK. In 17 games, Hall has notched three goals and four assists.
“Edmonton has some great young players,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “Any time you get to pick first (in the draft) it’s a unique occasion and they picked a player who’s going to be a franchise player. You can see he’s still learning some steps but he’s a great young player. This is a big league to play in and it’s a big jump to go from junior (hockey) to here.”