Before Saturday, the Phoenix Coyotes hadn’t won back-to-back road games all season.
On Sunday, they’ll have a chance to complete a rare three-game sweep through western Canada, but to complete that feat they’ll also have to end a five-game losing streak against the Edmonton Oilers.
Since coach Wayne Gretzky took over before the 2005-06 season, Phoenix had been 6-14-1 in Alberta and British Columbia entering their current trip, which began with a 6-3 loss at Minnesota that dropped the Coyotes (23-18-5) to 6-12-3 on the road this season.
But after a 4-1 win at Vancouver on Thursday, they ended Calgary’s seven-game home winning streak with a 4-3 victory Saturday night. Rookie Mikkel Boedker, ending a six-game point drought, scored the game-winner and added an assist for Phoenix.
“It’s a huge win, especially in this building where it’s a tough one to come into,” Boedker said. “It’s good to be back in Canada and see the crowds in all the cities, it gets you a little extra fired up when there’s so many people in the stands.”
Despite the Flames’ impressive recent play, beating Edmonton could prove the toughest task for the Coyotes. They lost all four meetings with the Oilers in regulation last season, also dropping a 4-2 decision at Rexall Place on Dec. 22. They’ve been outscored 26-12 during the five-game slide in the series.
Phoenix’s Ilya Bryzgalov has won four of his last five starts overall, but he has a 4.19 goals-against average in five career starts against the Oilers and was pulled from his last appearance in Edmonton after giving up three goals on 11 shots in the first period of an 8-4 loss last March 18.
Gretzky’s Coyotes are now 2-5-0 in the NHL’s northernmost city, where a bronze statue of the NHL’s all-time leading scorer stands outside the arena. Gretzky led the Oilers to four Stanley Cup titles in the 1980s.
Edmonton’s current team returns home Sunday after a strong road trip, as the team went 2-1-0 and captured wins at Washington and Colorado. The Oilers (22-19-3) have won three of four overall following Friday’s 3-2 win over the Avalanche.
Shawn Horcoff scored the game-winner with 6:35 to play, ending a nine-game drought without a goal, while Mathieu Garon made 37 saves for Edmonton. It proved to be Garon’s final game with the club before he was traded to Pittsburgh Saturday in exchange for goalie Dany Sabourin, a minor leaguer and a draft pick.
“Addressing our goaltending situation was a high priority for us,” general manager Steve Tambellini said. “Moving forward, we believe we’ve accomplished that as well as acquiring some valuable assets for our organization.”
That leaves Roloson as the likely starter for Sunday’s game. The veteran had been 7-3-0 with a 2.48 GAA over a 10-start span from Dec. 22-Jan. 13, but after dealing with a heavy workload, he gave up five goals on just 24 shots against Minnesota on Thursday.
“My worry is trying to get us some wins, and giving our guys to win day in and day out and move up the standings here and get into a playoff spot,” said Roloson, who has won four straight starts against the Coyotes.
The Oilers, who’ve missed the postseason the last two seasons, sit on the edge of the playoff picture in the Western Conference. Phoenix could end up being one of their primary competitors for a spot, as the Coyotes are currently in position to reach the postseason for the first time since 2001-02.