It's all about hockey for Coyotes in Columbus
Wednesday, 10.28.2009 / 7:00 PM
NHL.comCOYOTES (6-4-0) at BLUE JACKETS (6-4-0)
-- Both teams have identical 6-4-0 records.
-- Second meeting of four this season. The Jackets avenged a season sweep by the Coyotes in 2008-09 by shutting them out 2-0 at Jobing.com Arena on Oct. 10, spoiling their home opener. That was followed by a four-game winning streak for Phoenix and two more in a row for the Jackets until they hit a bump or two out West.
-- The announcement on Tuesday that the Coyotes franchise would be purchased by the NHL with the intent that it will be resold to owners committed to keeping the team in the Phoenix area should relieve a significant burden on team personnel and give a sense of stability to the fans. But coach Dave Tippett said in New York that the team is well beyond the "enough is enough" point with the off-ice issues.
"We're concentrating on the ice," he told the Arizona Republic. "The people who deal with off-ice issues, they'll deal with those. We can only control what happens on the ice."
-- Front-office worries aside, the Coyotes' recent play was all the more impressive given the teams they'd beaten. A scoreless tie to a shootout victory in San Jose and three straight wins at home against the likes of St. Louis, Boston and Detroit are definite confidence-builders, which made the last two losses to the Kings (5-3) at home and the Rangers (5-2) in New York a little disconcerting.
"We've got to go back and work at it," Ed Jovanovski said. "We don't want to lose three in row."
Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, red-hot going into last weekend with four straight wins, was pulled midway through the second period of the Rangers game.
"I think (Bryzgalov) just mentally gets a little fatigued and I think last night (in New York) was a good example," GM Don Maloney said to phoenixcoyotes.com. "Four goals against on 12 shots, that's tough for a team like us to overcome."
-- Fresh off a 1-3 western swing in which they allowed a total of 22 goals, the Jackets are happy to be back at Nationwide Arena, where they are 3-0-0 -- but less happy that they let what they thought were winnable games slip by.
"We lost a game in Edmonton where we could have been 2-2 and it wouldn't be that bad, but we allowed those 22 goals in four games and we can't let that happen again," winger Jakub Voracek said.
"It shows how far this team has come," coach Ken Hitchcock told the Columbus Dispatch. "We're (complaining) because we gave up six goals, and we're (complaining) because we haven't won all of our road games, and we're (complaining) because we haven't dominated other teams in their buildings for 60 minutes."
Some pressure naturally rests on Calder Trophy-winning goalie Steve Mason
, who went 1-2 with a 5.33 GAA on the trip, but Hitchcock was reluctant to single out his young goaltender, putting his team through a tough practice on Tuesday.
"We're just not competing down lower," left wing Jason Chimera said. "We're getting enough scoring chances to win hockey games, but we can't give up those chances or else the puck ends up in the back of our net. We're not doing enough defensively to stop those guys."
-- Voracek has 4 goals and 2 assists in his last five games, while Antoine Vermette
has 2 goals and 5 assists in the same stretch. For all the trouble Mason had on this most recent road trip, he has all three Blue Jackets home wins with a 1.00 GAA. Phoenix captain Shane Doan
has 3 goals and 5 assists in his last five games.
-- Columbus center Andrew Murray was placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a shoulder injury, retroactive to Oct. 20, and is expected to miss at least four weeks. Jared Boll
(hip flexor) should be available for Wednesday's game.
-- The 10 goals allowed by the Coyotes in their last two games are one more than they allowed in their previous six, during which they went 4-2-0.
-- It's all about hockey now as two evenly-matched teams clash in Columbus.
-- Matt Mankiewich, NHL.com