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Coyotes-Oilers Preview

AP - Sports

While Phoenix is excited about returning to the ice for the start of a road trip, the Edmonton Oilers would like to treat the Coyotes' visit as a road game as well.

The Coyotes have won their last five games at Rexall Place as they seek a third straight victory Saturday.

Phoenix (8-6-2) has not played since Mike Smith made 30 saves in a 4-0 home win over Calgary on Monday. The Coyotes have a rematch with the Flames on Sunday before this trip through western Canada ends Tuesday in Vancouver.

"You go get all those three teams there," veteran winger Steve Sullivan said. "It's easy to get up for those hockey games, obviously being Western Conference rivals, and I think being hockey hotbeds, the crowds are always pumped up."

Edmonton (6-7-3) has lost three of four entering the finale of a five-game homestand that precedes a nine-game trip. The Oilers want to take advantage of their last game at Rexall Place until March 15, a trip necessitated by the Canadian men's curling championship being held at the arena.

"We need to start positioning ourselves for the reality of the next few weeks," coach Ralph Krueger said. "To beat Phoenix, you have to play a great road game because that's the type of team they are. So we can get right at it at home here at Rexall."

The Oilers won 2-1 at Phoenix on Jan. 30 on Nail Yakupov's power-play goal in overtime. Edmonton had been 0-4-1 in the previous five meetings.

Smith missed that contest with a lower-body injury, but has gone 6-2-1 with a 2.04 goals-against average in nine starts since returning. He posted a 1.72 GAA in winning all four starts against the Oilers last season.

"We've got the tough game against Phoenix, who's an outstanding defensive team with a strong goaltender who's going to test us," Krueger said.

It's no secret that the workmanlike Coyotes, who have no skaters in the top 50 in points, once again want to control the tempo against the young Oilers.

"It's obvious their forwards have some high skill," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "They've got some guys who can really play fast with a lot of skill and you've got to be aware of that."

The Oilers won't have Taylor Hall available after the forward was suspended two games for kneeing Minnesota's Cal Clutterbuck in Thursday's 3-1 home defeat.

"I don't think it was a dirty play," Hall said. "I don't think I led with my knee."

Yakupov has gone eight games without a goal after he had five in his first eight NHL games.

Krueger was critical of his team's offensive production at even strength Thursday. The Oilers, among the best in the NHL on the power play at 23.6 percent, face a Coyotes team that's killed off 89.5 percent of short-handed situations in the last 12 games.

Tippett isn't counting on his club's past success in Edmonton to factor into Saturday.

"For whatever reason, we've played well up there in the past but this is a new season, you gotta jump in there and you gotta find ways to win games," Tippett said.

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