Coyotes take on Oilers in the desert

2:30 PM, Dec 31, 2013   |    comments
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( - Though in the midst of a five-game point streak, the Phoenix Coyotes shoot for just their second victory in eight games on Tuesday night as they play host to the Edmonton Oilers.

The Coyotes were last in action on Saturday when they dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the Anaheim Ducks. It marked Phoenix's third loss in a row, but the club is 1-0-4 over its past five games and has not lost in regulation since Dec. 17.

Third-period goals by Martin Hanzal and Mike Ribeiro -- the latter coming with 44 seconds to play in regulation -- allowed the Coyotes to force overtime, but the Ducks netted the winner 51 seconds into the bonus frame.

Backup Thomas Greiss made 38 saves in his sixth start of the season.

"I thought he was excellent," said Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett about Greiss. "He made some real big saves for us. We knew they were going to come hard with us being a tired team and he made some key saves at the right time to allow us to get a point."

Phoenix, 10-3-3 as the hosting club, begins a six-game homestand tonight and is close to getting captain Shane Doan back into the lineup. The forward has missed 10 consecutive games due to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and is still tied for the club lead with 12 goals despite his absence.

Doan skated in practice on Monday and said he felt good, but isn't likely to play tonight.

"I'd like to play (Tuesday) but I'm pretty sure they're not going to let me do that," Doan told Phoenix's website. "(The medical staff) will let me know when they think it's good for me to try it again."

Coyotes forward Rob Klinkhammer did not practice on Monday due to the flu.

With Greiss having gotten the start last time out, No. 1 netminder Mike Smith should get the call tonight and is 7-1-1 with a 2.35 goals against average in his career versus the Oilers. That includes a pair of wins this season.

The Oilers have also been out of action since Saturday, when they lost a 4-3 shootout decision to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Ilya Bryzgalov faced the club that bought out the final seven years of his massive contract this past summer and was solid with 35 saves. He signed a one-year deal with the Oilers in November.

"I think we battled through and tried our best," Bryzgalov said. "It was great to get the point."

Taylor Hall had a goal and an assist while David Perron and Ryan Nugent- Hopkins each scored for the Oilers, who had won their previous two following a six-game slide.

Edmonton coach Dallas Eakins is expected to make Nail Yakupov, the top overall selection of the 2012 draft, a healthy scratch tonight. The forward has six goals and 14 points in 39 games this season after logging 17 goals and 14 assists in 48 contests as a rookie last season.

"(Yakupov's) not going to play next game," Eakins said on Monday. "Yak and I had a very long in-depth conversation this morning, probably a good 40-45 minutes, the longest I've had with any player. Him and I have sorted out a few things, it was a good conversation, at least it ended well, and we have a definite plan moving forward. I have some things that I'm going to do and he's agreed to do some things from his end so we'll see how that goes."

Forward Roman Horak is expected to make his Edmonton debut in Yakupov's place and skated on a line Monday with Sam Gagner and Jordan Eberle.

Bryzgalov could make his ninth start of the season for the Oilers tonight and is 9-2-0 with a 1.90 GAA in 12 previous meetings with the Coyotes, who he played three-plus seasons with before signing with Philadelphia.

The Coyotes have beaten the Oilers twice this season -- once at home and once on the road -- and have won three straight as well as eight of the past 10 meetings.

Edmonton has dropped three in a row and seven of its last nine in Phoenix.

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