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Game #16 Preview: Arizona vs. Columbus

Kuemper to make his 11th start, Lyubushkin and Capobianco to play, Columbus arrives in a five-game rut (0-4-1)

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Game Preview

GAME #16: ARIZONA (9-4-2) VS. COLUMBUS (5-7-3)

7:00 PM MST - Gila River Arena | Glendale, Arizona

TV: Fox Sports Arizona Plus (Matt McConnell, Tyson Nash, Todd Walsh, Jody Jackson)

Radio: Fox Sports 910 AM Phoenix (Bob Heethuis, Paul Bissonnette)

Referees: Mitch Dunning #43, Tim Peel #20

Linesmen: Bevan Mills #53, Scott Driscoll #68

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ARIZONA VS. COLUMBUS

The Coyotes open a two-game home stand tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Gila River Arena, marking the first of two scheduled meetings between the teams this season.

Arizona will make its lone visit to Columbus' Nationwide Arena on December 3.

Despite losing in overtime to the Calgary Flames on Tuesday, the Coyotes have earned points in three consecutive games (2-0-1) and 11 of their last 13 (9-2-2). They own 20 standings points, situating them in a tie for third-place in the Pacific Division.

The Blue Jackets are coming off a 2-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday; they have dropped five-straight games, posting a 0-4-1 record during that stretch. They are without a win since October and a regulation win since October 16.

"A couple bounces here and there from watching their games, they could easily have eight or nine wins," head coach Rick Tocchet said of the Blue Jackets. "But when you have a tough time scoring, like we've had at times, it's a fine line between winning and losing, it's a goal here or there, and it's the difference between three wins or losses for them."

Darcy Kuemper will make his 11th start of the season tonight.

Jordan Oesterle and Brad Richardson were on the ice for the morning skate but will be out tonight. They both remain day-to-day and "are getting close", Tocchet said.

Jason Demers will be out of the lineup as well, due to a lower-body injury.

Tocchet said that all three players are possible for Saturday's game against the Minnesota Wild.

Ilya Lyubushkin will appear in his second-straight game and Kyle Capobianco will return to the lineup for the first time since his recall on Tuesday. No changes are expected to be made to forward lines.

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THREE THINGS

PUTTING UP POINTS: Phil Kessel and Derek Stepan have strung together mighty impressive track records when playing the Blue Jackets over their careers. Both players, with 20-plus games against Columbus on their NHL playing resumes, are producing at a point-per-game pace against Ohio's battalion. Kessel has 27 points (13G, 14A) in 27 career games against the Blue Jackets, Stepan 22 points (7G, 15A) in 22 career games.

LOW, LOW, LOW: Numbers-wise, the Coyotes face a favorable match-up with the low-scoring Columbus Blue Jackets, who enter the evening ranked second-to-last (30th) averaging 2.33 goals-per-game. Arizona's defense stands as the NHL's second best with a 2.27 goals-against-per-game average. The Blue Jackets have been held to one goal or less in three of their previous four games. The Coyotes have surrendered three or more regulation goals in just four of their 15 games played thus far.

SPECIAL [TEAMS] STORY: The Coyotes allowed multiple power play goals for just the second time all season during Tuesday's 4-3 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames. The Blue Jackets' power play ranks 27th overall in the NHL (12.5%) and 27th on the road (9.5%). The Coyotes' penalty kill has been outstanding at home; they have only allowed one power play goal at Gila River Arena in six home games, a 94.1% kill-rate (16-for-17), which ranks third in the NHL.

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LAST TIME AROUND

February 7, 2019 - Arizona (2) vs. Columbus (4)

Jordan Oesterle and Conor Garland scored in a 1:43 span early in the second period to help the Coyotes overcome a two-goal first period deficit, but that's all the offense Arizona would produce in a 4-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets during the teams' previous meeting on February 7 of last season.

Darcy Kuemper made 29 saves on 33 Blue Jackets shots faced. The Coyotes finished with a 1-1-0 record against Columbus last season.

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NUMBER TO KNOW

ONE (1)

Darcy Kuemper comes into the night as the NHL's leader in GAA (1.69) and SV% (.940) among qualified goaltenders (five or more GP), ranked first in both stat categories.

Kuemper's seven wins are also the third-highest total among NHL goaltenders. He has made 10 starts so far this season, and is one of only four goalies (Zac Bierk, Sean Burke, Nikolai Khabibulin) in franchise history to allow two goals or less in nine of their first 10 appearances of the season.

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QUICK HITS

  • Christian Fischer scored his first-career hat trick against the Blue Jackets on October 23 of last season.
  • Michael Grabner enters the game with 99-career NHL assists.
  • Derek Stepan enters the game with 298-career NHL assists.
  • The Coyotes have lost four straight games to the Blue Jackets on home ice (0-3-1), their previous win coming on January 3, 2015.
  • Arizona owns a 29-23-4-3 all-time record against Columbus.

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Lead Photo Credit: Norm Hall - Getty Images // Footer Photo Credit: Norm Hall - Getty Images

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