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Blue Jackets-Coyotes Preview @NHLdotcom
Blue Jackets-Coyotes Preview

GAME: Columbus Blue Jackets (12-27-2) at Phoenix Coyotes (20-19-2).

TIME: Sunday, 8 p.m. EST.

The Columbus Blue Jackets will try - for the 10th time - to post their first win in Arizona when they meet the Phoenix Coyotes.

Since joining the league as an expansion team in 2000, Columbus is 0-6-3 all-time against the Coyotes in Arizona, having been outscored 29-16 in that span.

The Blue Jackets also have just one win in their last 12 games overall versus the Coyotes.

Columbus also is trying to avoid its fourth straight loss. The Blue Jackets got goals in regulation from Sergei Fedorov and Rick Nash before losing 3-2 in a shootout Saturday to the Colorado Avalanche.

The loss was the Columbus' ninth in a row all-time in Denver despite backup goaltender Pascal Leclaire finishing with a career-high 46 saves.

"Pascal was real good and had to be real good to come in here and play a Colorado team that had 48 shots on him," Columbus coach Gerard Gallant said. "He had to make some big saves, and he got us a big point."

Gallant will have to decide between starting Leclaire again or going with veteran Marc Denis against the Coyotes. Denis is 4-5-4 in 13 career starts against the Coyotes - but just 0-4-3 in seven starts in Arizona while with Columbus.

Leclaire lost his only decision against Phoenix in February 2004.

Nash, a Canadian Olympic team selection, has scored five times during a four-game goals streak. The top overall pick from the 2002 entry draft has just three goals in seven games against the Coyotes.

Phoenix has been outplayed badly in last two games - a 5-2 loss Dec. 31 to the Colorado Avalanche, then a 4-0 shutout Thursday at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings.

"I don't think that we as a group worked as strong early in the game as (the Kings) did, and that was the difference," said Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky. "If you look at a team like Los Angeles, they are successful because they are pulling together in the same boat.

"Everybody is going in the same direction, everybody knows their responsibility and does their job."

Since posting a season-best three-game winning streak from Dec. 3-11, the Coyotes have dropped seven of 11 to fall into 11th place in the Western Conference playoff race.

Phoenix starts play seven points behind Colorado for the eighth and final playoff berth.

Ladislav Nagy, the Coyotes' leading scorer, has been held to one goal in his last 11 games. He does, though, have eight goals and 16 points in 14 career games against Columbus.

STANDINGS: Blue Jackets - 26 points, 4th place, 33 PB, Central Division. Coyotes - 42 points, 4th place, 14 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blue Jackets - Nikolai Zherdev, 11 goals and 24 points; David Vyborny and Bryan Berard, 15 assists; Jody Shelley, 80 PIM. Coyotes - Mike Comrie, 14 goals; Nagy, 31 assists and 44 points; Sean O'Donnell, 73 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Blue Jackets - Power play: 11.9 percent (28 for 236), 30th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.9 percent (231 for 282), 16th. Coyotes - Power play: 18.5 percent (50 for 270), 12th. Penalty killing: 80.8 percent (206 for 255), 22nd.

GOALTENDERS: Blue Jackets - Denis (7-16-0, 1 SO, 3.37 GAA); Leclaire (2-9-1, 0, 3.67). Coyotes - Curtis Joseph (16-11-0, 2, 2.59); Brian Boucher (2-3-0, 0, 3.61).

SEASON SERIES: Coyotes, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 20; Coyotes, 5-1. At Glendale, Ariz., Nagy finished with a goal and two assists for Phoenix. Gilbert Brule tallied for the Blue Jackets.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blue Jackets - 4-16-2 on the road; Coyotes - 11-8-1 at home.

Associated Press
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