By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will look to get back into the Western Conference playoff mix today when they play the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place. The puck drops at 5 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (35-26-11) will enter the game in 10th place in the conference standings but just one point behind eighth-place San Jose and two points behind Pacific Division leading Dallas. Both San Jose and Dallas are idle today.
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The Coyotes are 3-0-0 vs. the Oilers this season and have outscored them 11-5 in those games. They will be seeking a sweep of the season series today, and their fifth straight win over Edmonton overall.
Phoenix has posted a 2-5-2 record in March, including a humbling 4-1 loss to Calgary on Thursday night. The Coyotes are 1-1-0 halfway through a crucial four-game trip that ends Tuesday night at Dallas.
Goalie Mike Smith
, who will start tonight, has posted a 1.67 goals-against average in three victories over the Oilers this season.
Points leader Ray Whitney
, an Edmonton-area native who has five assists in the last three games, leads the team with five points versus the Oilers this season.
|Photo by Getty Images
Leading goal scorer Radim Vrbata
, who has missed the past two games because of illness, and center Martin Hanzal
, who hasn't played since March 8 because of an upper-body injury, will be back in the lineup for this game.
Edmonton (28-36-7) will enter the game trying to win three consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 31-Feb. 4.
The Oilers are in 14th place in the conference standings and looking to play spoiler over their last 11 games.
Edmonton ranks third in the NHL in power-play efficiency at 21. 2 percent. Only the Winnipeg Jets have scored more power-play goals on home ice; Jets have 30, Oilers have 29.
Goalie Devan Dubnyk is 0-3-0 vs. Phoenix this season with a 3.42 goals-against average in those games.
Oilers defenseman Ladislav Smid ranks first on the team and fourth in the NHL with 168 blocked shots.