Skip to main content

Oilers a fitting opponent for what could be Coyotes' last game in Arizona

Arizona Coyotes goalie Karel Vejmelka makes a save on Edmonton Oilers winger Zach Hyman with Coyotes defenceman Sean Durzi in on the action in overtime on April 12, 2024, at Rogers Place. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press) Arizona Coyotes goalie Karel Vejmelka makes a save on Edmonton Oilers winger Zach Hyman with Coyotes defenceman Sean Durzi in on the action in overtime on April 12, 2024, at Rogers Place. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)
Share

This is almost certainly it: Wednesday night marks the Arizona Coyotes' final game of their season — and potentially their last in the southwestern U.S. state as multiple reports over the last week say the National Hockey League franchise is moving to Utah.

In at least a couple of ways, it's fitting the Edmonton Oilers will be the Coyotes' final opponent before the Desert Dogs shed their Kachina-styled uniforms for whatever hues and themes may await them in Salt Lake City.

The franchises have long been rivals, stretching back to their early-1970s beginnings in the World Hockey Association as the Alberta Oilers and the original Winnipeg Jets.

They were the last two squads standing in the WHA's final campaign as the Jets beat the Oilers for the Avco Cup championship.

Both teams made the jump to the NHL in 1979 as division mates in the Smythe Division, facing each other in the playoffs throughout the 1980s — with the Oilers winning each time (including a come-from-behind series win in 1990).

The Jets left the Oilers' division in 1993 after league expansion led to the realignment of teams, but 20 years later — and following Winnipeg's move to Phoenix in 1996 — the franchises were reunited in the expanded Pacific Division for 2013-14.

For a few years at least. The Coyotes moved to the Central Division — once again after the league expanded — for 2021-22.

Now, back in the present, one could expect the Coyotes — who are not playoff bound this season — to rise to the occasion Wednesday to give fans at their home Mullett Arena a rousing sendoff.

But while the Oilers are resting some players and giving others more ice time in preparation for the post-season, Edmonton forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins says that doesn't mean his team will be taking it easy.

"We want to build and maintain our habits and play the right way," Nugent-Hopkins told media following Wednesday's morning skate.

"It doesn't really matter what's on the line. It's every time you go out there, you want you want to play the right way. You don't want to let anything slip."

He said he's enjoyed travelling to Arizona for games over his career "and we'll see what happens in the future," he said, perhaps in acknowledgement of rumours the NHL wants to bring an expansion franchise back to the area.

"I definitely think it's been growing a lot," he said.

"The fanbase has been growing ... they've had some good teams in the past where they've had the 'White Out' (fans all dress in white during playoffs) and they really got into it when they have made the playoffs back in Glendale. They filled that arena and it was loud. There were many games that we played there that were loud.

Coyotes head coach Andre Tourigny said Tuesday he expects the Oilers will want pay back for last week's Arizona overtime win in Rogers Place.

“We played a hell of a game in Edmonton, and I think they will remember that," he said on the team's website.

"I expect them to know we will have emotion, so it will be a difficult game, but I know we will empty the tank.” 

CTVNews.ca Top Stories

Oilers rally to beat Stars, tie Western Conference Final

With the Edmonton Oilers down two goals late in the first period of Game 4, Rogers Place was quiet, fans seemingly bewildered at the early, quick scoring of the Dallas Stars and the slow start by the home team. Ryan McLeod's marker with six-and-a-half minutes in the opening frame left changed all that.

Stay Connected