Coyotes hope to turn things around in Edmonton

9:35 AM, Mar 18, 2012   |    comments
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(Sports Network) - The first half of March has been one to forget for the Coyotes. Phoenix, though, can start to turn things around this evening with its first-ever sweep of the Edmonton Oilers.

The Coyotes stormed into the postseason picture by going 11-0-1 in February, but lost their first five games of March and have compiled just a 2-5-2 record in the month. Phoenix had hoped it got on track with Wednesday's win at Vancouver to open a four-game road trip, but it fell right back into the loss column with a 4-1 decision in Calgary the following night.

Goaltender Mike Smith won all 11 of his starts in February, but fell to 2-4-1 in eight games this month. He has allowed four goals in each of his last three starts and made 15 saves in the loss to the Flames. Smith gave up the game's first goal of the game just 17 seconds in following a bad turnover.

Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored his 11th goal of the season for the Coyotes.

"We played last night, got points. You know you're going to have to come in here and play a really determined, really tight game and not give them anything unearned, then we gave them an unearned goal," said Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett.

The Coyotes' March swoon has it on the edge of the playoff picture. Heading into play tonight, Phoenix is 10th overall in the West with 10 games to play and trails both San Jose and Los Angeles by a point for the eighth spot in the conference. The Sharks also have a game in hand over the Coyotes.

Phoenix goes for a big two points tonight and has won four straight and nine of its past 10 over the Oilers. A fifth straight victory in Edmonton would give the Coyotes their first ever season series sweep of the Oilers, though they did go 2-0 with a pair of ties in the 2000-01 season.

Edmonton will look to play spoiler and pick up a third straight victory for the first time since Jan. 31-Feb. 4. The Oilers have logged back-to-back wins for the first time in almost a month with Friday's 3-1 triumph over the Flames.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins netted a pair of goals and is among the league leaders in rookie scoring with 45 points, while Jordan Eberle also scored and assisted on both of Nugent-Hopkins' tallies.

"It was a great win," Eberle said. "We came out hard and got the two goals quick. We had a little bit of a lull in the second, but finished it off in the third."

Devan Dubnyk made 18 saves in the victory, which was marred by an injury to Taylor Hall. The top pick of the 2010 draft left the game early after losing his balance and getting crushed by Flames defenseman Cory Sarich on an open- ice hit. Hall, who suffered a concussion, had to be helped off the ice and did not return. He was slated to be re-evaluated over the weekend.

Edmonton wraps a three-game homestand this evening.

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