|If the Phoenix Coyotes fail to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs (or are unable to win the Pacific Division), all they need to do is look at their record in the season series against the Blue Jackets. Columbus (3-0-0) has owned the previous three meetings with the Coyotes this year and each has been a fairly dominant performance by the Blue Jackets. And on each occasion, the Coyotes sorely needed two points against a Blue Jackets club not in playoff contention, but came up empty. |
Will that change tonight at Jobing.com Arena? Phoenix certainly hopes so, and momentum is on its side as goaltender Mike Smith is riding a shutout streak of nearly 160 consecutive minutes coming into the game. The Coyotes are currently in seventh place in the Western Conference, but are just two points clear of ninth-place Dallas with three games to go. The division crown is still within range and it’s a dead heat between the Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings: the two clubs are even based on points (91) and regulation or overtime victories (33), meaning the Kings’ superior record in the season series has them in the division lead for the time being. That could change, of course, with Los Angeles playing last night at home and the Coyotes facing a key game against the Blue Jackets tonight.
The Coyotes and Blue Jackets each bring winning streaks into tonight’s game in Glendale, but Columbus’ string of victories has included some impressive competition. After defeating the Detroit Red Wings at home on Wednesday night, the Blue Jackets beat the playoff-hopeful Florida Panthers in a crucial game on Friday. The next night, with rookie goaltender Allen York between the pipes and the St. Louis Blues looking to clinch the Central Division, Columbus shut them down and earned a 5-2 win. Phoenix has won two straight, and could potentially leap into the division lead with two points tonight.
York will be the starting netminder for the Blue Jackets in Phoenix, marking his fourth consecutive start between the pipes. Smith is expected to get the call for the Coyotes, looking to extend his already-impressive shutout streak.
| || || |
|Nash (27) ||Vrbata (33) |
|Prospal (36) ||Whitney (51) |
|Nash (56) ||Whitney (75) |
|Dorsett (218) ||Torres (64) |
|MacKenzie (+4) ||Whitney (+25) |
|Mason (14-26-3) |
|Smith (35-18-10) |
|York (2.35) ||Smith (2.29) |
|York (.921) ||Smith (.927) || |
|• Tonight’s game continues a three-game road trip that began in St. Louis Saturday and concludes at Colorado Thursday. The season will conclude with a home game against the New York Islanders next Saturday. The club has gone 5-3-0 its last eight games after going 0-4-0 the previous four games. Columbus has gone 14-13-1 the last 28 games after posting a 4-15-2 mark the previous 21 outings. |
•G Allen York stopped 29-of-31 shots to earn the first win of his NHL career Mar. 28 vs. Detroit. He is only the fifth goaltender in the last 20 seasons to post his first NHL win in a game against the Red Wings (most recent, Devan Dubnyk, Mar. 19, 2010). York has won three-straight games after stopping 34-of-36 shots Saturday at St. Louis. He has stopped 114 of the last 120 shots he’s faced the last four games, posting a 1.56 goals-against average and .950 save percentage during that stretch.
• Tonight’s game marks the fourth and final meeting overall and second of two at Jobing.com Arena this season between the Blue Jackets and Coyotes. Columbus is 16-21-6 all-time against Phoenix, including a 6-11-4 mark at Jobing.com Arena The Blue Jackets have won three-straight and four of the last five against the Coyotes.