Preview: Oilers at Coyotes
The Arizona Coyotes lead the league in goals allowed per game and their tandem between the pipes has been a big reason why as they continue a quest to end a frustrating seven-year playoff drought. Darcy Kuemper is expected to take his turn in net Sunday night as the Coyotes go after a sixth victory in eight games when they host the Edmonton Oilers in a battle of the top two teams in the Pacific Division.
Antti Raanta turned aside 43 shots as Arizona grinded out a 3-2 win at Los Angeles on Saturday for his fifth victory while Kuemper (9-6-0, 1.93 goals-against average, .935 save percentage) has picked up where he left off last season when he won a career-best 27 games. “We’re happy to get the two points,” Coyotes forward Vinnie Hinostroza told reporters after Saturday’s triumph. “All year, both our goals have been unreal. Anytime either of them is in net, we have all the confidence in the world in them.” Edmonton, which dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to Arizona at home on Nov. 4, leads the Coyotes by three points for the top spot in the division after a 4-2 win at Vegas on Saturday behind a pair of goals from superstar captain Connor McDavid. The Oilers have alternated wins and losses over the last six games, but boast an 8-5-1 record on the road and the top two scorers in the league in Leon Draisaitl (47 points) along with McDavid (46) - who owns a season-best, 10-game point streak.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NHL Network, Sportsnet (Edmonton), FS Arizona Plus
ABOUT THE OILERS (15-7-3): Draisaitl (16 goals) logged three assists in Saturday’s victory, but fell behind McDavid (18) in the goal-scoring category and the third-leading scorer on the team is physical forward Zack Kassian (18 points). Forward Markus Granlund scored his second goal of the season Saturday and reached 100 points for his career while defenseman Ethan Bear scored his fourth of the campaign and second in four games. Mike Smith turned aside 25 saves at Vegas for his 250th career victory, but Mikko Koskinen (8-1-2, 2.42 goals-against, .921 save percentage) is likely to get the start Sunday to end the back-to-back.
ABOUT THE COYOTES (14-8-2): Center Nick Schmaltz has been kept off the scoresheet in the last two games, but leads the team with 18 points - four better than fellow forwards Conor Garland (team-high 10 goals), Phil Kessel and Clayton Keller. Kessel scored Saturday and has four points in his last five contests while Keller ended a four-game point drought with an assist against the Kings and forward Christian Fischer recorded his second goal of the season. Left wing Lawson Crouse (five goals) also scored Saturday, but left the game in the third period after falling and hitting his head on the boards.
1. Edmonton F Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is three points shy of 400 for his career and D Darnell Nurse need one for 100.
2. Arizona C Derek Stepan had an assist in Saturday’s victory and needs one to reach 300 for his career.
3. The Coyotes are 5-1-1 against Pacific Division foes while the Oilers improved to 5-2-1 with Saturday’s win.
PREDICTION: Coyotes 3, Oilers 2