With four wins in their last five games, the Edmonton Oilers are back in the thick of a jammed-packed race in the Pacific Division heading into Saturday afternoon's home contest against the Arizona Coyotes.
Just two points separate the top five teams in the Pacific standings. Arizona enters the contest in a tie for first place with Calgary with 57 points, followed by Vegas (56), Vancouver (56) and Edmonton (55).
Both the Coyotes and Oilers head into a break in their schedules and don't return to the ice until Jan. 29.
"When everything is bunched up as tight as it is and there are so many teams involved, if you get into the playoffs, you've earned your way in," Edmonton coach Dave Tippett told NHL.com. "You're not going to get in just by squeaking through. You're going to have to earn your way in because there are so many teams that are going to be in play."
The Oilers will be well-rested heading into Saturday's game, having been off since posting a 4-2 victory over Nashville on Tuesday. Leon Draisaitl led the way by scoring two goals and setting up another while league scoring leader Connor McDavid had three assists.
"I thought it was a solid win for us," said Draisaitl, who now has 73 points, one less than McDavid.
"We defended well, and we didn't really give them too much."
Arizona, which has just one win its last five games (1-3-1), comes in off a 3-1 loss at Vancouver on Thursday. Despite the loss, the Coyotes still own the best road record (14-9-3) in the Pacific Division.
"I thought it was a pretty solid game here for us, but there are no moral victories, especially at this time of year," said Christian Dvorak, who had given Arizona a 1-0 lead in the first period with his 12th goal of the season.
"It's a tough one to lose, and we need to make sure we're ready on Saturday. We can't get frustrated here. We've got to keep going. Obviously, it's a big game Saturday."
With a win on Saturday, Arizona can go into its break no worse than tied for first place.
"We want to win it," defenseman Alex Goligoski said. "Obviously, we all know how tight (the race) is, and points are so valuable. All these teams are so jammed together, so we want to get that last one and feel good going into the break."
This is the third of four meetings between the two teams, with the road club winning each of the previous two contests in extra time.
Arizona posted a 3-2 win over Edmonton on Nov. 4 on Derek Stepan's goal at the 2:01 mark of overtime. The Oilers pulled out a 4-3 victory on Nov. 24 in Glendale, Ariz., with McDavid scoring the only goal in a shootout.
--Field Level Media