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Edmonton Oilers Game Day: Taylor Hall back in unexpected return

Taylor Hall, formerly of the New Jersey Devils, and Edmonton Oilers defenceman Adam Larsson pursue the puck at the Prudential Center in this file photo from Jan. 7, 2017 in Newark, N.J.
Taylor Hall, formerly of the New Jersey Devils, and Edmonton Oilers defenceman Adam Larsson pursue the puck at the Prudential Center in this file photo from Jan. 7, 2017 in Newark, N.J.

Arizona Coyotes at Edmonton Oilers: 1 p.m. TV: Sportsnet , radio: 630 CHED

NET VALUE OF SMITH

The Oilers goalie has a .928 save percentage in his last five starts, with a four-game win streak after a 3-2 overtime loss in Buffalo to kick off the last road trip.

Smith has recovered his game after a rough stretch of 11 outings in November and December when he had an .853 save percentage and people were wondering if the Oilers would have to ride Mikko Koskinen every night.

Smith had similar hot and cold streaks for Arizona, too, the team he’ll be playing Saturday afternoon. While Koskinen has allowed 12 goals in his last three starts, Smith has righted the ship

KEEP THE BALL ROLLIN’

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, with his sore wrist doing better and playing left-wing on the second line with Leon Draisaitl, rather than his usual centre spot, has been on a scoring tear.

He has seven goals and 11 points in his last nine games. He’s quietly gone from really struggling, especially five-on-five, to a seasonal 13 goals and 31 points in 42 games.

He’s also only minus-2. As much as Bakersfield call-up Kailer Yamamoto has helped the No. 2 line, Nugent-Hopkins has provided as much juice.

BIG MINUTES

Oscar Klefbom has played at least 25 minutes in 13 of his last 16 games going back to Dec. 10, five times going over 28 minutes and keeping his status as one of the busiest players in the league.

He’s averaging 25:40 a game and only once in 48 games has he been under 20 minutes, Dec. 6 against Los Angeles.

He’s a triple threat – five-on-five, killing penalties and on the point on the power play, making him one of the few defencemen who can say that. With 28 points, he’s also tied his total from last year.

MASTER DEFENDER

Arizona blueliner Niklas Hjalmarsson is just back after being out a couple of months with a broken leg.

He won three Cup rings with the Blackhawks as the soul of Chicago’s defence. He’s admittedly not the force he once was because he’s over 30 now and there’s lots of hard miles and tons of blocked shots as souvenirs of how good he was on Chicago’s title runs.

But when they grade the best of Swedish defenceman in history, he is a classic role model for how to be so solid and so indispensable to a dynastic team.

PACIFIC SENIORITY

Hard to believe, but Arizona coach Rick Tocchet, in his third season with the Coyotes, is the second most senior bench boss in the carousel Pacific, behind Vancouver’s Travis Green, who was hired just three months earlier in 2017.

While Pete DeBoer in San Jose, Gerard Galant in Las Vegas and Bill Peters in Calgary have all been replaced since the season started, Tocchet was just named as Pacific all-star coach with the shocking firing of Gallant, and has done an excellent job with a desert dogs team Oilers coach Dave Tippett previously led for eight years.

Big Matchup

TAYLOR HALL vs. ADAM LARSSON

Hey, why not look at this possibility? They were traded for each other, lest we forget.

Hall’s no longer in New Jersey after he was traded to the Coyotes for three prospects and two draft picks, so this is the first time we’ll see him in a Coyotes jersey.

Hall likes to come down the left side and Larsson patrols the right on the top pair with Oscar Klefbom, so they could collide a few times.

Hall thought his one and only trip to Edmonton was back in early November with the Devils, but now that he’s in the desert, we get this extra regular-season look. No telling whether Hall will sign with Arizona on July 1 as a unrestricted free agent forward.

SPECIAL TEAMS

EDMONTON:

power play: 1st (29.9%)
penalty kill: 5th (83.1%)

ARIZONA:

power play: 14th (19.9%)
penalty kill: 10th (82.0%)

OILERS LINES

James Neal • Connor McDavid • Josh Archibald
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins • Leon Draisaitl • Kailer Yamamoto
Sam Gagner • Gaetan Haas • Alex Chiasson
Joakim Nygard • Riley Sheahan • Patrick Russell

Oscar Klefbom • Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse • Ehan Bear
Kris Russell • Caleb Jones

Mike Smith
Mikko Koskinen

COYOTES LINES

Taylor Hall • Christian Dvorak • Conor Garland
Lawson Crouse • Derek Stepan • Phil Kessel
Nick Schmaltz • Carl Soderberg • Clayton Keller
Michael Grabner • Michael Chaput • Vinnie Hinostroza

Oliver Ekman-Larsson • Jason Demers
Jakob Chychrun • Alex Goligoski
Jordan Oesterle • Niklas Hjalmarsson

Adin Hill
Darcy Kuemper

INJURIES

ARIZONA

Antti Raanta

EDMONTON

Matt Benning

E-mail: jmatheson@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @NHLbyMatty

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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