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After Players Only Meeting and Tough Practice Jackets Face Coyotes Tonight!

by Jeff Rimer / Columbus Blue Jackets

December 21

All eyes will be on the Blue Jackets tonight as they meet the Coyotes here in Phoenix. After their latest setback in Colorado Friday the Jackets held a "players only meeting"... then yesterday the team went through a tough 80-odd minute practice in preparation for tonight's start against the Coyotes. The team did not have a pre-game skate, instead had their usual pre-game meeting after which Coach Hitchcock told members of the media that in his mind it was very positive and the team met amongst themselves without prodding from the coaches. Asked about what he expects the results will be from the players only meeting and yesterday's practice, the Jackets coach said,"I'd be surprised if we didn't play a hell of a game tonight." He added, "We are moving from friends in the room to teammates."

One thing to watch tonight is the elevation of Jake Voracek to the top line with Vermette and Nash. Coach Hitchcock was quick with his praise for the young Jackets winger... "Jake has been a very good player... it's a bit of a step but he has played 100 games in the NHL and he is our future."

The goaltender match-up tonight see's the Coyotes go with Ilya Bryzgalov and the Jackets counter with Mathieu Garon. Garon has turned aside 62 of the 63 shots he has faced from Phoenix and of course shutout the Coyotes 2-0 in our first trip to the Desert back in early October, spoiling their home opener.

There will be a new but familiar face in the Phoenix lineup tonight. Anders Eriksson, the former Blue Jacket, was officially signed by the Coyotes this morning, skated with his new team... after spending eight games with their minor league affiliate.

Game time is 9 p.m. Columbus-time on FOX Sports Ohio, preceded by Blue Jackets LIVE at 8:30 p.m.

*Throughout the season, AAA will bring you the Broadcaster's Blogs - "Bobby Mac", "Davidge Dishes" and "Rimer Ramblings." The Columbus Blue Jackets radio and television analysts will try to keep you updated on all the season action through their blogs, especially when the Blue Jackets are on the road.

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