|The Blue Jackets cooled off a Colorado Avalanche team that had won four straight games prior to Thursday, and tonight in Glendale, they’re charged with stopping a Coyotes club that completed the month of February with an 11-0-1 record. |
That incredible stretch of hockey was halted in Phoenix’s last outing, however, as the Calgary Flames picked up a 4-2 win at Jobing.com Arena earlier this week. The Coyotes are a perfect storm of sorts right now – they are getting timely scoring up and down the lineup and goaltender Mike Smith is a leading candidate for the Vezina Trophy, giving them a chance to win every night.
In the last meeting between the Blue Jackets and Coyotes, the two clubs were tangled in a wild affair at Nationwide Arena on Jan. 13. Curtis Sanford came up big for Columbus down the stretch and Derick Brassard notched the eventual game-winning goal late in the second period. Just two weeks later, the meteoric rise began for the Coyotes – they began February in 12th place in the Western Conference and facing a steep hill to climb in the Pacific Division.
Smith’s stellar play and a tight-checking structure helped Phoenix get back in the picture, and as March opens, the Coyotes sit atop the division and occupy third place in the conference. Ageless wonder Ray Whitney is on quite the hot streak, picking up 18 points in his last 15 games and is the overall scoring leader for the Coyotes.
Phoenix GM Don Maloney acquired a solid piece for his team’s playoff run last week, sending a pair of draft picks and Curtis McElhinney to the Blue Jackets in exchange for Antoine Vermette, who is currently centering the No. 2 line with Mikkel Boedker and Shane Doan. Tonight’s game is the first for Vermette against his former club, and the Blue Jackets are coming off a 2-0 win Thursday in Denver.
| || || |
|Nash (22) ||Vrbata (30) |
|Prospal (30) ||Whitney (39) |
|Nash (44) ||Whitney (58) |
|Dorsett (181) ||Torres (48) |
|MacKenzie (+1) ||Whitney (+25) |
|Sanford (10-15-4) |
|Smith (29-15-7) |
|Sanford (2.66) ||Smith (2.25) |
|Sanford (.911) ||Smith (.927) || |
|• The Blue Jackets are 3-1-1 in their last five road games after going 0-6-1 their previous seven road games. The club has posted a 6-6-1 mark the last 13 games after going winless its previous six games. |
• Vinny Prospal has points in eight of the last 14 games after recording two assists Thursday at Colorado. He has tallied 2-9-11 during that stretch after being held pointless the previous nine games. He snapped a seven-game goalless skid with his 11th of the season Feb. 26 at PIT. He had last scored Feb. 9 vs. DAL. He leads the club in assists and ranks second in points and is third (tied) in goals.
• Steve Mason stopped all 33 shots he faced to post a shutout Thursday at Colorado. It was his first shutout since Feb. 22, 2011, a span of 49 games. He has gone 4-3-1 his last eight starts after going 1-7-1 the previous eight starts. In the last four wins, he has posted a 1.25 goals-against average and .965 save %.
• Tonight marks the second of four meetings overall and first of two at Jobing.com Arena this season between the Blue Jackets and Coyotes. Columbus is 14-21-6 all-time against Phoenix, including a 5-11-4 mark at Jobing.com Arena. The Blue Jackets have won two of the last three meetings after the Coyotes claimed 10 of the previous 11 contests.
LW - #13
• Whitney has carried the mail for the Coyotes offense of late and at age 39, the veteran winger is showing little sign of wearing down. “The Wizard” is still a force on the power play and a threat to score off the rush, and has formed a solid partnership with centerman Martin Hanzal.
D Radek Martinek (concussion); out for the season
LW Kristian Huselius (lower body); indefinitely
D Marc Methot (jaw); indefinitely
RW Jared Boll (foot); week-to-week