Oilers host Coyotes in clash between playoff hopefuls

The Edmonton Oilers are looking to take advantage of a home-heavy finish to the regular season in an effort to snap a six-year playoff drought.

Six of nine on the road to wrap the season could keep the Phoenix Coyotes out of the postseason for the first time in four years.

The two playoff hopefuls meet on Wednesday night in Edmonton with a chance to cut into their deficit for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Phoenix stands 11th overall in the conference with 40 points, three back of the eighth-place Detroit Red Wings with nine games to play. Edmonton also has nine left on its schedule and is a point behind the Coyotes in the standings. Detroit is idle on Wednesday.

The Oilers begin a three-game homestand with Wednesday's clash against the Coyotes and seven of their final nine are at Rexall Place, where the club is 8-5-4 on the season.

Phoenix, meanwhile, kicked off a three-game road trip with a loss on Monday in Vancouver and the swing ends on Friday in Calgary. Following a home game with San Jose, Phoenix will play another three on the road, return home for two and then conclude the regular season in Anaheim.

That stretch could keep the Coyotes out of the playoffs given that they are 4-9-5 as the road team this season. They lost for the eighth time in their past nine on the road with Monday's 2-0 setback at the Vancouver Canucks.

Mike Smith was solid with 40 saves, but Phoenix was shut out for the sixth time this season. Smith was coming off a 2-0 shutout win over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday, his first game in action in seven contests after missing time due to injury.

"I thought we pushed back in the third and really got it going," said Smith. "But I think we just didn't do enough to create chances and put the puck in the net."

The consequence was Phoenix having a three-game winning streak snapped and the club had been 4-0-1 in its previous five.

Edmonton put itself in playoff contention with a five-game win streak from March 26-April 3, but has been outscored 10-2 over a three-game losing streak. The Oilers concluded a four-game swing on Monday with a 2-1 loss in Anaheim.

Nick Schultz snapped a 58-game goal drought, but Devan Dubnyk gave up both goals on 38 shots in the setback.

Edmonton kept Anaheim scoreless on its five power-play chances, but has been shorthanded 15 times over its losing streak.

"We needed some momentum I think. If we had scored earlier, maybe it would have helped in that regard," said Schultz following the loss to the Ducks. "For some reason, these last few games, we're taking way more penalties than we have in the past. We're killing (penalties) too much, killing the momentum and speed of our team. We need to be more disciplined and make sure we're not killing ourselves that way."

The Coyotes swept the four-game season series in 2011-12, but the Oilers have the chance to return the favor tonight after taking the first two of three meetings this season. Both wins did come after regulation and Edmonton escaped with a 3-2 shootout victory at home in the last encounter on Feb. 23.

That win snapped a five-game series home losing streak for the Oilers, who have still lost 10 of the previous 13 matchups overall.