Game Day: Edmonton Oilers @ Phoenix Coyotes
The Edmonton Oilers, winners of six in a row, are off to their best start in a quarter-decade. They'll be the visitors tonight at Jobing.com Arena as they face off against the Phoenix Coyotes, who after a five-game unbeaten streak fell victim to Pekka Rinne's 23rd shutout on Thursday.
The Coyotes, who were 3-1 against the Oilers last season, sent Andy Miele back to the AHL's Portland Pirates yesterday, as Cal O'Reilly is expected to start tonight. Mike Smith will likely be the starting goaltender, and Martin Hanzal's status is still questionable. Out for the Oilers are Cam Barker, Ales Hemsky, Ryan Whitney and Darcy Hordichuk.
Quick Hits: Oilers
♦ Nikolai Khabibulin has been the story for Edmonton, currently leading the NHL with a 0.98 goals-against average and a .963 save-percentage. He has yet to play in Phoenix as an Oiler. Former Coyote Eric Belanger also returns to Jobing.com Arena tonight.
♦ Naturally, another headliner is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, named (probably unanimously) the rookie of the month for October. He had 11 points in his first 11 games, including his first NHL hat trick before even recording an assist. He shares the team points lead with another Ryan, Ryan Smyth.
♦ In the season series last year, Taylor Hall and Shawn Horcoff each had three points each in three games.
♦ Shot-block alert: Ladislav Smid leads the league with 45. That's an average of almost four per game. That hurts to even think about.
Quick Hits: Coyotes
♦ Mike Smith has made 278 saves through 9 games, including 141 of 149 in his last four starts.
♦ Ray Whitney had seven points against the Oilers in four games against them last season. Shane Doan is almost a point-a-game player against Edmonton, with 52 points in 53 games.
♦ Though the Coyotes were not rewarded with a single goal on Thursday, Radim Vrbata had 6 shots on net and still has 4-3-7 in his last four games.
♦ Head coach Dave Tippett remains in search of his 100th win with the Coyotes.