The Phoenix Coyotes welcome the young and explosive Edmonton Oilers. Led by the youngsters dubbed the Baby Oil line; Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Jordan Eberle, they comes in with an 8-2-2 record that is leading the Northwest Division. Phoenix is in a three way tie for second in the Pacific Division at 6-4-2.
Kierland Commons was awash in Oiler gear yesterday as fans of the Great White North descend into the Valley for six months of sunshine and palm trees. Those at the Toyota Club inisde Jobing.com will probably see a few Gretzky and Messier jerseys. Oiler fans haven’t had a lot to cheer the past few years thanks to injuries to key players and young talent that needed playing time to get experience. This year, Edmonton is looking to get even and get back to the playoffs at the expense of Calgary and Vancouver.
The game is also the first time Eric Belanger will visit Phoenix since leaving over the summer as a UFA. Belanger commented in an interview with Ryan Dittrick of Edmonton Oilers.com, “It’s a Canadian market,” he said of Oil Country. “There’s nothing you can compare it to unless you’re in it. Edmonton loves the Oilers and the team loves coming to play in a packed building every night. It’s so electric inside Rexall Place. It’s given us some extra energy to become a better team and to help us be better at home.” The entire article should be read (go to Edmonton Oilers.com for the interview) as it very positive to the Coyote fans and Captain Shane Doan.
What more can be said about the bankruptcy saga and the attendance the past two years? Last year had an average attendance of over twelve thousand. While the fans embraced Belanger, he decided stable grounds were more attractive. Now he can read about the Oiler ownership group wanting the Edmonton residents to build a new arena using public funds. The sentiments amongst government and taxpayers are not favor of using public funds for the building of new arenas.
The game should be a good test for the Coyotes. Can a defense first concept that relies on a team scoring approach defeat a young high flying that gets its goals from veteran and former mullet champion Ryan Smith (6 goals) Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (5) and Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall with three each. To counter the Baby Oil line, will the Coyotes roll out the Triple P (Pyatt, Patrick O’Sullivan, and Paul Bissonnette) line that made its debut last Saturday in a win? Will Coach Tippett, with Marin Hanzal out due a lower body injury), keep Boyd Gordon on the shut down line with Whitney and Vrbata? Hopefully the Yotes will be rested after back to back against Colorado and Nashville. The mile high atmosphere was no match for Vrbata and Mike Smith. Nashville was able to take advantage of tired legs and a missing Hanzal for a shutout win on Thursday.
Mike Smith, sporting the championship belt after the Colorado win, needs a solid game of controlling rebounds and keeping Ryan Smith out of his crease. Smith has made a living his career of being in front of the goalie and knocking in the greasy rebound. He has two talented playmakers in Taylor Hall and Nugent-Hopkins to get the puck in close for Smith. Add in Jordan Eberle, Smith has his work cut out for himself. Hopefully Derek Morris and Keith Yandle can shut down Ales Hemsky, a frequent back of the net visitor in the Bryzgalov era.
The defense had to cut down on the defensive zone turnover and get the puck through the neutral zone. Edmonton attacks the neutral zone looking for the sloppy or errant pass. The chip in off the hard pass by the forward on the board that was worked on in training camp is tailor made for cracking Edmonton’s play. Use the speed of Korpikoski and Boedker to get the chipped puck, set the cycle, and get it to Shane for the one-timer.
Andy Miele was sent to Portland on Friday. He did well in the most recent games and had some great puck handling on the powerplay, but he needs to get shots to and on the net. More time against older, bigger, and faster players will give him what he needs. There is no new information on Rosival. With Chris Summers being sent back as well, Coach Tippett feels the six D-men we have are all we need.
The game is on CBC in Canada and locally radio only. Fox Sports, we are looking at you with scorn. All photo taken by bigjackdaddy.