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Coyotes-Blue Jackets Preview @NHLdotcom

GAME: Phoenix Coyotes (29-29-4) at Columbus Blue Jackets (24-36-2).

TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EST.

If the Phoenix Coyotes had played all season the way they played in their last game, they might not be facing such a tough battle to make the playoffs.

Phoenix looks to build on a big win when it takes on the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.

The Coyotes are 11 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and would have to climb over four teams to earn the berth. Phoenix didn't appear discouraged by that on Tuesday night, however, defeating West-leading Detroit 5-2 at Joe Louis Arena.

Curtis Joseph made 35 saves and Mike Comrie scored twice for Phoenix, which had won only one of its previous six games. The Coyotes, though, rebounded nicely from being routed 7-3 by the Red Wings in the opener of the home-and-home series Saturday. Phoenix also defeated the Pacific Division-leading Dallas Stars last Thursday.

"If we play like this more often I really like our postseason chances," Joseph said. "Every time people start to count us out, we rally and show what kind of team we can be. This win ... two games after beating Dallas absolutely gives us a confidence boost coming down the stretch."

Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky wasn't nearly as optimistic as his goaltender.

"We've got a long way to go," he said. "Let's be honest. We know we've got an uphill battle but nobody's going to quit."

Gretzky's team is 13-14-1 on the road, and the Coyotes will need to improve their play away from Glendale Arena immediately if they want to stay in the postseason race. Tuesday's victory opened a stretch of seven of eight games on the road for the Coyotes, including a season-high five-game trip from March 12-21.

Phoenix visits a Blue Jackets club that lost for the third time in four games since the Olympic break Tuesday, 3-1 to Chicago. Columbus has only five goals during that span.

Manny Malhotra scored his first goal since Nov. 26, but the Blue Jackets were outshot 43-28. Marc Denis made 41 saves for Columbus.

"We had tons of chances," Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash said. "When you're hot you're hot, and when you're not you're not."

Columbus broke a six-game winless streak against Phoenix in the teams' last meeting Jan. 8.

The Blue Jackets traded defenseman Luke Richardson to Toronto for a conditional draft pick Wednesday, ending the veteran's disappointing stint in Columbus. Richardson had one goal, six assists and 30 penalty minutes in 44 games this season.

STANDINGS: Coyotes - 62 points, 5th place, 23 PB, Pacific Division. Blue Jackets - 50 points, 3rd place, 37 PB, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Coyotes - Shane Doan and Mike Comrie, 21 goals; Ladislav Nagy, 41 assists and 56 points; Sean O'Donnell, 121 PIM. Blue Jackets - Nikolai Zherdev, 22 goals; David Vyborny, 29 assists and 45 points; Jody Shelley, 120 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Coyotes - Power play: 18.4 percent (77 for 419), 9th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.1 percent (317 for 391), 21st. Blue Jackets - Power play: 14.6 percent (51 for 350), 29th. Penalty killing: 81.2 percent (333 for 410), 20th.

GOALTENDERS: Coyotes - Joseph (24-17-2, 2 SO, 3.00 GAA); Philippe Sauve (3-4-0, 3.26). Blue Jackets - Denis (15-22-0, 1, 3.35); Martin Prusek (3-3-0, 3.22).


LAST MEETING: Jan. 8; Blue Jackets, 5-2. At Glendale, Ariz., Bryan Berard recorded a hat trick with a goal in each period to lift Columbus, and the Jackets won despite being outshot 34-15. Denis made 34 saves, while Joseph turned aside only 10 shots.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Coyotes - 13-14-1 on the road; Blue Jackets - 15-14-0 at home.

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