Preview: Coyotes at Oilers
There's a crowd forming atop the Pacific Division, with five teams separated by a mere two points in the scramble for first place. Two of the teams battling for division supremacy will square off in what will be the final matchup for each until after the All-Star break when the Edmonton Oilers host the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday afternoon.
Edmonton moved up the standings with a 5-1-1 run over the past seven contests, returning from a strong five-game road trip with a 4-2 victory over Nashville on Tuesday. "It's a divisional game, our division is so tight and this is one of the teams we're chasing down," Oilers captain Connor McDavid said. "This is a huge one for us." While Edmonton is surging, the Coyotes are heading in the other direction, dropping four of five (1-3-1) and failing to score more than one goal three times in that span. "Obviously, we all know how tight (it) is, and points are so valuable," defenseman Alex Goligoski said. "All these teams are so jammed together, so we want to get that last one and feel good going into the break."
TIME: 3 p.m. ET. TV: FS Arizona-Plus, Sportsnet One, Sportsnet East/Ontario/Pacific
ABOUT THE COYOTES (26-19-5): Adin Hill has appeared in each of the last six games, including five starts, due to injuries to Arizona's top two goaltenders and allowed eight goals over the last three outings. However, it appears that Antti Raanta is ready to return to the lineup after dealing with a lower-body injury that forced him to exit each of his last two starts after two periods. Raanta has split six career decisions with a 2.11 goals-against average versus the Oilers but is 4-5-2 with a 3.06 GAA on the road this season.
ABOUT THE OILERS (25-18-5): McDavid and Leon Draisaitl collected three points apiece Tuesday to remain 1-2 in the league's scoring race with 74 and 73, respectively. Of equal importance for Edmonton has been the play of veteran netminder Mike Smith, who turned aside 30 shots Tuesday to win his fourth consecutive start. “How am I better? Stopping pucks,” Smith told the Edmonton Journal. "I’m just feeling real comfortable and confident now. I’m letting the pucks come to me and I’m trying to stay as calm as possible."
1. Oilers C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has six goals and 11 points over his last seven games.
2. Coyotes F Taylor Hall has three goals and as many assists during a three-game point streak.
3. Oilers F Zack Kassian will sit out on Saturday to serve the second of a two-game suspension.
PREDICTION: Oilers 3, Coyotes 2