Will Oilers be naughty or nice?

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

It's the last game before the Christmas break, and one which could determine the Edmonton Oilers holiday spirit.

Tonight the Oilers play host to the Phoenix Coyotes (7:30 p.m.) at Rexall Place, a team that has collected at least a point in their last eight games.

"They're coming off a win the other night and are a team that's playing very well," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.

"They have a lot of energy, a lot of youth in their lineup and they're a hard-working team."

Last season, the Oilers won all four games against the Coyotes.

Tonight is the first of four meetings between the two teams this season. They'll meet again in Edmonton on Glenn Anderson retirement night in January, then have games in Phoenix in February and March.

"We don't know a lot about them because we haven't played them yet this year," said Oilers captain Ethan Moreau. "But they are playing a lot better than they were last year."

After a slow start to the season, the Coyotes have clawed their way into a playoff position in the Western Conference. The Coyotes have not made the playoffs in the last five seasons.

The Oilers, meanwhile, are going into the contest having lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Anaheim Ducks on Friday, despite registering a season-high 53 shots on net.

The barrage helped the Oilers come back from a 2-0 third-period deficit to take the game into overtime.

"We generated a lot of shots against a really good team, but we still have to find a way to score more," said Moreau.

"We need to score more than two goals.

"But we showed a lot of character coming back against a really good team, a team that has either (Chris) Pronger or (Scott) Niedermayer on the ice for basically the whole game.

"I thought we generated a lot of chances and (goaltender Jonas Hiller) made some big saves. It would have been nice to be able to get another goal on the power play, but for the most part, I thought we did a really good job offensively, although we have to be more efficient and score more goals."

Hiller finished with a franchise-high 51 saves in the contest, then went on to make three more saves in the shootout.

Against the Coyotes, the Oilers will most likely be going up against another goaltender capable of stealing games for his team in Ilja Bryzgalov.

"I think we had a lot of really good shots against Anaheim.

"We just got unlucky - hit the goalie a few times, had a few posts and a couple went off the knob of his stick," Moreau said. "But you have to believe that if we get 53 shots (tonight), then we'll probably get five goals.

"It's just the law of averages, if you keep shooting, you're eventually going to score a lot of goals."


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