Oilers, Coyotes in different stages of postseason chase
Now that the Arizona Coyotes have managed what seemed impossible only a month ago, the goal is to not fall victim to complacency.
With 11 games remaining in the regular season, the Coyotes (36-30-5) are three points ahead of the Minnesota Wild for the final postseason berth, having won two straight games and 10 of 12.
Arizona, which has missed the playoffs the last six seasons, actually has the Vegas Golden Knights -- who sit third in the Pacific Division -- within striking distance.
However, as the Coyotes head into Saturday's home clash with what should be a very desperate Edmonton Oilers squad, their head coach is warning against looking at too many aspects other than playing their best each and every game.
"I'm sure everybody looks at the standings, but we're not going to focus on that. We can't let things get away," head coach Rick Tocchet said after the Coyotes beat the Anaheim Ducks 6-1 on Thursday night.
"We've got to stay focused on our team. People start getting excited and telling you how great you are, and you've got to be careful. You can't lose that edge. You can't lift your foot off the gas pedal," Tocchet said.
If the Coyotes want an example, they just need to look at Edmonton's previous opponent.
The Oilers (31-32-7) were rolling nicely with hopes of making a run to get in the thick of a playoff spot but suffered a crushing 6-3 loss to the bottom-feeding New Jersey Devils on Wednesday. New Jersey had lost seven straight beforehand.
"We took them lightly, took the game for granted," Oilers star Connor McDavid said in the aftermath. "I don't think we came to work. They are a good team. They work hard. They don't have the veterans in the lineup, but whatever they lacked in experience, they made up for in effort."
Which has the Oilers, eight points back of the Coyotes, pretty much facing must-win games in their final 12.
"We've played awfully well against good teams, especially on the road," head coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We play our best hockey afraid. And playing teams ahead of you in the standings, there is a nervousness that goes with it. I think we're going to play well. If we expect to stay in the playoff race, we have to win two of the next three."
What remains to be seen is whether the Oilers go up against a Coyotes squad that will take a step back or wants to have a taste of dashing an opponents' playoff hopes with a few weeks remaining in the campaign.
"It's going to be a fun trip down the stretch," goalie Darcy Kuemper said. "We know how every game is important, how every point matters. You can see that focus game in and game out, and as a group it's making us a better team."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 15, 2019