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Jackets, Coyotes finish up season series

by Sergei J. Feldman
BLUE JACKETS (33-29-11) at COYOTES (40-24-11)

TV -- FS-O (HD), FS-A (HD)

Last 10 -- Columbus 2-4-4; Phoenix 7-2-1

Season series -- The Western Conference foes go at it for the fourth and final time this season. Phoenix has the edge with two wins, while the Blue Jackets bounced back in their most recent outing one month ago with a 5-3 win.

Big story -- Columbus and Phoenix are skating in opposite directions. The Coyotes have one thing in mind, and that is the playoffs, especially after having won six of their past seven games. As for the Blue Jackets, while the playoffs are mathematically possible, being eight points back with nine games left might be too steep to overcome. Still, a tough out night in, night out, the Jackets look to play spoiler against the Coyotes.

Team scope:

Blue Jackets -- The Jackets have been in and out of the playoff mix for much of the season, but their recent skid, in which they've won two out of 12 games, has been especially difficult to overcome.  Most recently, the Jackets skates away with a 5-4 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche, a game in which the Avs tied the game with less than four seconds remaining.

"You get two short-handed goals, it should win you a hockey game," Jackets coach Scott Arniel said following the tough loss. "For 50 minutes, we played a heck of a hockey game. Then the last 10 we made some mental mistakes that cost us goals, right up to the last three seconds of the game."

Coyotes -- At the other end of the spectrum, the Coyotes have enjoyed an impressive recent stretch, including a five-game winning streak in the middle of March. Currently in the midst of a six-game homestand, the Coyotes most recently bounced back from a 2-1 loss to Chicago to start the homestand with a 2-1 win over St. Louis. Lauri Korpikoski earned the game-winning goal midway through the game for his 18th goal of the 2010-11 campaign.

"No one is surprised to see [Korpikoski] scoring like this," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said after the game. "He's an elite player and everyone has been kind of waiting for him to put it together. We count on him to break the game open with his skill."

Who's hot -- Coyotes right wing Radim Vrbata has been carrying the load with seven points in his past five games, including three two-point nights. Meanwhile, Jackets captain Rick Nash has six points in his past five games, including a four-point night against Minnesota recently.

Injury report -- The Blue Jackets will be without the services of winger Ethan Moreau, who is day-to-day with a foot injury, as well as defenseman Grant Clitsome who is also out day-to-day but with a knee injury. The Coyotes won’t be joined by Martin Hanzal who is out with a lower-body injury and Ed Jovanovski, who is out with an eye injury and is expected to return mid-to-late March.

Stat pack -- Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle is tied for second among all NHL defensemen in points with 57, trailing Anaheim's Lubomir Visnovsky by just one point.

Puck drop -- Coyotes' trade deadline acquisition, defenseman Rostislav Klesla, will be playing against the team that drafted him fourth overall in 2000 for the first time.

"I'm sure it will be kind of weird to play against my old teammates," he said. "It should be interesting. I'm just hoping that we're going to get the win."

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