Oilers at Coyotes Picks and NHL Betting Odds
by Alan Matthews - 1/30/2013
Last season, the Phoenix Coyotes were one of the NHL’s biggest surprises. They weren’t expected to do much – if even stay in Phoenix – but won the Pacific Division and upset the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs and then the Nashville Predators in the conference semifinals before running into to the red-hot L.A. Kings in the West Finals. Phoenix did it with a starless team and without much of a budget with the franchise in such tradition. That appears to be catching up to the Coyotes this season as they are off to a 2-4 start and really don’t resemble a playoff team.
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Edmonton, meanwhile, finished with the least amount of points in the NHL again last season, but that just translated into the No. 1 overall pick in the draft for the third straight season. And the Oilers are starting to reap the benefits with a young group led by forwards Taylor Hall (2010), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011) and Nail Yakupov (2012) being the envy of probably every team in the league. The Oilers are 3-2 and tied atop Northwest Division – this will be a playoff team in 2013.
Oilers at Coyotes Betting Story Lines
Phoenix has been hit hard by injuries but does enter off a 4-0 win over Nashville on Sunday. Chad Johnson got the start in net because No. 1 backstop Mike Smith was put on injured reserve Monday retroactive to Jan. 23 when he suffered a groin injury in warm-up prior to a game against Columbus. He played just nine minutes against the Blue Jackets. Smith probably won’t return until Friday. In his first career start with Phoenix and first anywhere in the NHL since January 2010, Johnson stopped all 21 Nashville shots for his first career shutout. He was the third goaltender in franchise history to post shutout in his debut for Phoenix. The Coyotes entered that game having allowed an NHL-high 20 goals in five games. Johnson was called up from the AHL last week and was 14-8-0 with a 2.80 goals-against average in 24 games for Portland in that league. He started Monday because normal Coyotes No. 2 Jason LaBarbera was torched in the previous two games. Surely Johnson will start again Wednesday.
The Coyotes also played Monday without center Martin Hanzal because of a lower-body injury. It was the third game in the past four he missed. Hanzal has a goal and an assist in three games as the second-line center. Alexandre Bolduc replaced Hanzal on Monday, centering a line with wing Radim Vrbata and Mikkel Boedker. Hanzal is iffy for Wednesday.
The Hanzal injury hurts even more because fellow center Matthew Lombardi is out indefinitely (likely at least a month) after suffering an upper body injury last week in a loss to the Sharks. He was just acquired Jan. 16 in a trade with Toronto and had two assists in four games with Phoenix.
The Coyotes also remain without left winger Raffi Torres, who continues to serve his suspension for a devastating hit in last year’s playoffs on Chicago’s Marian Hossa. Torres can return Saturday against Dallas. Torres says he will be a kinder, gentler player going forward, and he better be because the NHL will be watching him closely with his past.
Edmonton has alternated wins and losses so far this season and beat Colorado 4-1 on Monday. The Oilers were a tremendous 4-for-6 on the power play. They finally scored first after falling behind in the first four games. Yakupov had a goal, his third of the year, and Hall had two assists. Hall leads the team with seven points.
The Oilers have 10 power-play goals in their first five games (at least one in each game) for the third time in franchise history and first since the late 1980s when Wayne Gretzky was unstoppable. Goalie Devan Dubnyk made 37 saves against the Avs. He has supplanted Nikolai Khabibulin as the No. 1 goalie. Khabibulin has yet to play this season after hip surgery last April. He’s close to returning, however.
Oilers at Coyotes NHL Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BookMaker, Phoenix is a -125 favorite (Oilers -105) with the total at 5.5 for Wednesday’s game. Edmonton is 2-3 “over/under” this year (1-2 on road) and 2-2 as a dog. The Coyotes are 5-1 over/under (3-1 at home) and 1-0 as a favorite.
The Oilers are 0-4 in their last four games after allowing two goals or fewer in their previous game. The Coyotes are 1-4 in their past five after a win and 1-6 in their past seven against teams with a winning record. The under is 4-1 in Edmonton’s past five road games. The over is 6-1 in Phoenix’s past seven overall. Edmonton is 1-6 in its past seven visits to Phoenix.
Oilers at Coyotes Picks and Betting Predictions
Oilers fans can count on seeing Yakupov for the entire season. Because of the lockout-shortened schedule, rookies burn a year of their contract when they play in five games this season. Monday was Yakupov’s fifth game, meaning there’s no point to send him back to juniors now. He’s going to be a big-time target, however, if he keeps with his very demonstrative goal celebrations.
As good as Yakupov looks already, he’s probably not even the top Rookie of the Year candidate on his own team. That’s defenseman Justin Schultz. He has two goals and three assists and averages a team-high 23:18 of ice time per game.
I’m not a big fan of Dubnyk’s, as his 3.18 GAA is No. 31 in the NHL and save percentage of .907 is 21st. But I favor him over the Coyotes’ Johnson; there’s a reason the guy didn’t start a game for three years. Johnson has never faced Edmonton. Clearly, the Oilers have more offensive firepower as well, although they have struggled at even-strength.
Phoenix has won five straight and 10 of the past 11 in this series. That ends Wednesday. Take the Oilers and the under.
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