BLUE JACKETS (10-12-6) VS. COYOTES (13-11-3)
7 P.M. SATURDAY | NATIONWIDE ARENA
TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO (HD) | RADIO: CD 102.5 FM & BLUEJACKETS.COM
TONIGHT'S PROMO: COLLECTIBLE RJ UMBERGER PUCK FOR THE FIRST 5,000 KIDS AGE 12 & UNDER. BUY THE DISPATCH FAMILY VALUE PACK & SAVE NOW!
The Blue Jackets and Coyotes have linked up twice during this shortened NHL season, and the most recent matchup was easily the most entertaining -- though the coaching staffs on both teams would likely disagree.
It was a Feb. 16 game at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz. with the Blue Jackets playing the second half of back-to-back games and kicking off what would be their longest road trip of the year. There was some energy in the opening period, for sure, but the highlight was the rate at which pucks were finding the back of the net. Before you could get settled in to watch the game, it was 2-2 and both goaltenders were under siege in a game highly uncharacteristic of the usually-stingy Coyotes.
Columbus fell into a bad habit of giving Phoenix power play opportunities in that game and it eventually came back to bite them. Martin Hanzal scored the game-winner in the third period while on the man advantage and the Coyotes picked up their second straight win in the three-game season series which concludes Saturday night at Nationwide Arena -- a place where the Blue Jackets have to make hay if they're going to make their way up the Western Conference standings.
The Coyotes are in the midst of a four-game road trip that began in St. Louis on Thursday night and concludes in Los Angeles. Rookie goaltender Jake Allen, recently recalled from the Peoria Rivermen, recorded his first NHL shutout on Thursday by blanking the Coyotes in a 3-0 win at Scottrade Center, and it came just a few nights after Phoenix lit up the scoresheet against the LA Kings. Offensive inconsistency has plagued the Coyotes of late, and entering tonight's game they sit tenuously on the playoff bar: at 29 points, they're tied with the Detroit Red Wings but hold the edge with one more win.
Perhaps the Coyotes' best stretch of hockey - which fueled their ascent to eighth place - began with back-to-back wins over the Anaheim Ducks to open March. Both were 5-4 shootout victories and gave them a ton of confidence headed into a crucial month of the schedule, and while they've suffered two shutout defeats in their last four games, the Coyotes bounced back with a 5-2 win over the red-hot Kings on Tuesday night in Glendale.
Mike Smith is expected to make the start in goal for Phoenix and it's likely that Sergei Bobrovsky - absolutely spectacular of late for the Blue Jackets - will get the call for Columbus.
- Columbus set a new franchise record by recording a point in nine consecutive games (5-0-4). The previous mark of eight (4-0-2-2) was set between Jan. 16 and Feb. 6, 2001. They go for points in 10 straight games tonight against the Coyotes.
- The Blue Jackets were 1-for-1 in man-down situations on Thursday and have now killed off 30 of their last 31 penalties. They have not allowed a 5-on-4 power play goal since Feb. 18 at Anaheim, a span of 12 games.
- Sergei Bobrovsky matched his season high by making 39 saves against the Blackhawks in regulation/overtime on Thursday night. Bobrovsky is now 6-1-3 with a 1.48 GAA and a .950 SV% in his last 10 appearances.
DEFENSE | #3
2013 STATS: 5-10-15, 27 GP
One of the more underrated two-way defensemen in the NHL, Yandle has been a bit overshadowed by the emergence of young Oliver Ekman-Larsson on the Phoenix blue line -- but that's not to diminish his solid play over the past few seasons. Yandle can move the puck with the best, run the point on the power play and log heavy minutes in crucial situations for head coach Dave Tippett. When the time comes for protecting a one-goal lead late in the game, or pushing for a big goal in the third period, Yandle is one of the guys on the ice for the Coyotes.
COLUMBUS: Derek MacKenzie (upper body), day-to-day; Derek Dorsett (fractured clavicle), on IR; James Wisniewski (foot), on IR; Nikita Nikitin (lower body), day-to-day
PHOENIX: Radim Vrbata (foot), on IR; Zbynek Michalek (ankle), day-to-day