After beating two teams ahead of them in the Western Conference standings, the Phoenix Coyotes hope to build off the momentum when they face a team that they’ve struggled against recently.
The Coyotes close out a five-game homestand Saturday when they meet the Edmonton Oilers as they continue to make a push for the West’s final playoff spot.
Edmonton (34-32-5) is four points behind 10th-place Phoenix (36-30-5) in the West, but the Oilers are 2-0 against the Coyotes this season and have won six of the last eight meetings between the teams, including three wins in their last four visits to Phoenix.
The Coyotes, though, are coming off a big 2-0 win over Vancouver on Thursday following Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout win over Anaheim. Niko Kapanen and Daniel Winnik each scored Thursday for Phoenix, which outshot Vancouver 45-24, including 24-7 in the opening period.
The Canucks own the final playoff spot in the West with 80 points, two ahead of ninth-place Nashville.
“It’s a playoff game, pretty much, for us,” Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. “We know that, and I’m sure they know that.”
Phoenix has 11 games left in the regular season, with seven coming against teams ahead of it in the West.
“Every game is do or die for us,” said goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who recorded 24 saves Thursday for his third shutout of the season and fifth of his career.
Bryzgalov, who has won three of his last four starts, is 1-2-0 with a 3.62 goals-against average in his career against Edmonton. The Coyotes picked him off waivers in November hoping he can help them make the playoffs for the first time since 2001-02. Bryzgalov won three of four playoff starts last season for the Stanley Cup champion Ducks.
“He’s the real deal,” coach Wayne Gretzky said. “He’s a pretty special young man, and he’s made us a better team.”
Edmonton’s playoff hopes took a big hit Thursday with a 5-1 loss to Colorado, ending its three-game winning streak. The Oilers also came in having won seven of eight, but haven’t been able to make much of a move in the standings.
After scoring 10 goals in its previous two games, Edmonton trailed 3-0 before Sam Gagner scored on the power play for the Oilers’ only score Thursday night.
Gagner has two goals and four assists in the last three games, while fellow rookie Andrew Cogliano, who had four goals during the winning streak, was held without a point against the Avalanche.
“We looked sluggish, lethargic,” coach Craig MacTavish said. “When you have that problem, you have to rely on your smarts and play around your lack of energy. We made mistakes we haven’t been making.”
Garon is 5-3-1 with a 2.36 GAA in 10 games—nine starts—against the Coyotes. He was in net for Edmonton’s 5-2 home win over Phoenix on Jan. 10.
The teams meet for the final time Tuesday in Edmonton.