11:35 P.M. -- SECOND PERIOD ANALYSIS: After starting the second period in good stead and getting a 1-0 lead, the Blue Jackets had a big time lapse in the closing minutes and find themselves down 2-1 going to the third period. The first Coyotes goal was the result of a defensive breakdown in front of Mason, as Columbus failed to clear the puck and yielded two point-blank chances -- the second one bouncing in to make it 1-1. Oliver Ekman-Larsson took advantage of some messy play between the blue lines and jumped into a Coyotes rush, wristing one top-corner over Mason to give Phoenix its first lead. The Blue Jackets were guilty of a too many men on the ice penalty with 2.2 seconds left in the middle frame, so the Coyotes have a chance on the power play when the third period begins. In order to get this thing righted and headed in the right direction, Columbus needs the third period to start with a clutch penalty kill. They're making way too many mistakes in the neutral zone and their breakouts have been almost non-existent.
10:40 P.M. -- FIRST PERIOD ANALYSIS: Sloppy start from both teams in Glendale, and there's some rust showing as well. The big news in the opening 20 minutes is an apparent injury to Coyotes goalie Mike Smith, who left the ice surface during a media timeout, went down the tunnel with an athletic trainer and has not returned to the bench. Jason LaBarbera stepped in and wasn't really tested, and that's something to watch for the Blue Jackets going forward in this game. I liked the energy from Columbus, and there was some solid puck possession, but sustaining time in the offensive zone has to get better. The Blue Jackets are getting one shot or less each time down the ice, and if they're going to wear down this weakened Coyotes defense (missing Rusty Klesla tonight), they must spend more time down below the icing line.
6:00 P.M. -- And our last pre-game interview from the Blue Jackets dressing room is with forward Brandon Dubinsky, who will skate on a line with Artem Anisimov and Cam Atkinson this evening:
5:30 P.M. -- Hey, Danny! Blue Jackets assistant coach Dan Hinote joins Bob McElligott on the bench for tonight's game day preview, going over everything you need to know about the game:
4:00 P.M. -- Our next Jackets TV interview today is with Blue Jackets defenseman Adrian Aucoin, who spent the past three seasons as a member of the Coyotes:
3:45 P.M. -- Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards addressed the media after today's morning skate at Jobing.com Arena. Bob McElligott was there to capture his comments on Jackets TV:
3:30 P.M. -- Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic has the expected lineup for the Coyotes tonight:
Sullivan - Hanzal - Vrbata
Boedker - Vermette - Doan
Korpikoski - Gordon - Moss
Bissonnette - Lombardi - Chipchura
Yandle - Morris
Schlemko - Klesla
2:40 P.M. -- Were you at Nationwide Arena for opening night? Do you remember the amazing intro video featuring "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons? If you were in the building, you get to re-live it...and if you're seeing it for the first time, be prepared for a whole bunch of awesome...
2:30 P.M. -- This has been reported elsewhere, but Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith gets the nod in goal against the Blue Jackets this evening.
2:00 P.M. -- Blue Jackets TV voice Jeff Rimer has all the latest scoopage from the morning skate, and it begins with some lineup changes for Columbus. Derek MacKenzie will sit out tonight and Mark Letestu draws in to center the fourth line, getting his first game action of the season. For the time being, it appears that Cam Atkinson and Derek Dorsett will flip-flop spots on right wing.
Steve Mason starts in net against the Coyotes and makes his first start of the season. He carries a career 3-4-0 record against Phoenix into tonight's game.
Here's the projected Blue Jackets lineup:
Umberger - Brassard - Dorsett
Dubinsky- Anisimov - Atkinson
Prospal - Johansen - Foligno
Calvert - Letestu - Boll
Tyutin - Nikitin
Johnson - Wisniewski
Moore - Aucoin
1:30 P.M. -- Good afternoon, everyone. It's time to fire up today's Blue Jackets game blog with the morning skate just wrapping up at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, and there's plenty to cover today.
The Blue Jackets and Coyotes are set for their first of three meetings in this shortened NHL season tonight, and it's the second road game for Columbus. As you'll recall, the first was a successful one with a shootout victory over the Predators.
How about a quick flashback to start today's blog? It's one of Columbus' recent trips to Jobing.com Arena, and it was an impressive 5-2 victory over a Coyotes team coming off an undefeated month of February and rolling toward the playoffs: