Preview: Coyotes at Oilers
The Arizona Coyotes continue to gain confidence as they begin a difficult stretch with the first of five road games in the next seven contests against the Pacific Division-leading Edmonton Oilers on Monday night. The Coyotes, who have not made the playoffs since 2011-12, have won seven of their last nine games after Darcy Kuemper turned aside 33 shots in a 3-0 victory over Colorado at home on Saturday.
“We’re maturing as a group and doing a great job of staying even keel,” Kuemper told reporters Saturday. “We don’t really get too high after a night like this. Last game when it didn’t go our way, we just came back to work at practice.” Dave Tippett, who coached Arizona for eight seasons from 2009-17 including a trip to the conference finals in 2012, will take on his old team for the first time after guiding the Oilers to a surprising start led by All-Stars Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. Draisaitl is the first Edmonton player to score at least 13 goals in the first 15 games of a season since Wayne Gretzky had the same amount in 1987-88 and the first Oiler with 26 points in the opening 15 contests since Mark Messier in 1989-90. Edmonton needed 51 saves from Mike Smith on Saturday to edge Pittsburgh 2-1 in overtime on Draisaitl’s winner and Tippett told reporters: “They were quicker than us, but we hung around the game and found a way to get points. That’s what it’s about.”
TV: 9 p.m. ET, FS Arizona Plus, Sportsnet West
ABOUT THE COYOTES (8-4-1): Nick Schmaltz leads the club with 12 points (eight assists) and fellow forward Conor Garland tops Arizona with seven goals, scoring in every other game over the past 11 after recording the team’s final tally Saturday. Barrett Hayton, a 19-year-old forward picked fifth overall in the 2018 draft, has registered a goal, two assists and a plus-3 rating in his last four contests. “He’s a sticky player. He’s in the corner, he stops, he’s a smart guy,” coach Rick Tocchet told reporters. “. … He’s got talent, but I think you can’t get enough players with hockey IQ, and he’s got a very high hockey IQ.”
ABOUT THE OILERS (10-4-1): Draisaitl, who also leads the club with 52 shots and boasts a plus-8 rating, has scored at least a goal in five consecutive games (seven total) and McDavid is three behind his linemate with 23 points. Left wing James Neal, who managed just seven goals in 63 games with Calgary last season before coming to Edmonton in a trade, has sprinted out of the gate in 2019-20 with 11 goals - but only two of them coming in the last seven contests. Smith (5-3-1, 2.12 goals-against average, .931 save percentage) and Mikko Koskinen (5-1-0, 2.39, .922) continue to share time between the pipes.
1. Edmonton C Riley Sheahan (upper body) missed Saturday’s game and his replacement C Colby Cave scored his first goal of the season.
2. Arizona D Alex Goligoski has assists in three straight games and shares the team lead with Schmaltz and F Clayton Keller.
3. The teams split four meetings last season, all won by the visiting club and two ending past regulation time.
PREDICTION: Oilers 4, Coyotes 2