The Phoenix Coyotes were disappointing in the early going, but they appear to be getting their season on track.
The Edmonton Oilers are still fully entrenched in their woeful start.
The Coyotes look to extend their season-high winning streak to five games Friday night when they visit an Oilers team trying to avoid its second six-game skid in a month.
After finishing with a franchise-best 50 wins in 2009-10, Phoenix (8-5-5) had high hopes heading into this season. The Coyotes struggled out of the gate but finally seem to be turning the corner, winning four straight.
“We had a pretty bad start to the season, let’s be honest, but now we’ve won four games in a row and it’s always a great feeling when you win the games, it makes it fun to play,” said center Martin Hanzal(notes), who had a goal and assist in a 3-1 win over Calgary on Wednesday. “Right now, things couldn’t be better.”
Phoenix is averaging 3.8 goals during its win streak after averaging 2.4 in its previous five. Vernon Fiddler(notes) and Ray Whitney(notes) have recorded hat tricks during the run, while Hanzal has scored in back-to-back games.
Bryzgalov made 39 saves Wednesday, and has turned aside 105 of 113 shots while playing three games of the winning streak. He was in goal for all four contests against the Oilers last season, going 3-1-0 with a 2.69 goals-against average.
“We’ve started feeling better not because we’ve won four games in a row, but because we’re playing better hockey and that’s most important,” said Bryzgalov, who has faced at least 35 shots in each of his last five games. “Sometimes you can win four games in a row but be unsatisfied with the type of hockey you’re playing but when you play good hockey overall, you’ll be fine.”
The Oilers (4-10-3) have not been playing good hockey, recording two wins in 15 contests, both against Chicago. The Blackhawks exacted some revenge Wednesday by handing Edmonton a 5-0 loss, its fifth in a row.
The Oilers, who dropped six straight from Oct. 14-28, couldn’t keep up with the Blackhawks on Wednesday, getting outshot 20-4 in the first period and 47-18 overall. They’ve been outscored 30-8 during their slide.
“We have a ways to go, there’s no doubt about it,” coach Tom Renney said. “We all want this to happen real quick. We all want it to have happened tonight and last week and a month ago. We’d be kidding ourselves if we thought that was going to be the case. But we need to be more competitive.
“This needs to mean more to us than what we have demonstrated in the last little while.”
Renney pulled Nikolai Khabibulin(notes) prior to the start of the third period Wednesday after he stopped 27 of 31 shots. Khabibulin has a 7.89 GAA in four games during the slide, and his 4.59 GAA in 13 games since Oct. 14 is the worst for any goalie that has made at least eight starts.
He won’t get a chance to improve those numbers Friday, as he was placed on injured reserve Thursday due to a groin injury. Edmonton called up veteran Martin Gerber(notes) from Oklahoma City of the AHL, and he could get the start with Devan Dubnyk(notes) backing up.