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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Friday, January 13th (All times Eastern)

Phoenix Coyotes (20-17-7) at Columbus Blue Jackets (11-26-5), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Phoenix Coyotes have been playing solid hockey as of late for 65 minutes. It's the few minutes after that where the club has been struggling.

The Coyotes, losers of two straight shootouts, try to get back on track tonight against the league's last-place club, the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Phoenix has lost eight of its last 10 games, but has points in four straight. Following an overtime loss at Los Angeles and a victory over the Islanders, the Coyotes have dropped shootouts to the Rangers and Red Wings. The 3-2 loss to Detroit came last night in the middle portion of a three-game road trip.

Radim Vrbata netted his team-leading 21st goal, Taylor Pyatt also scored and Mike Smith made 40 saves. Phoenix is 11th overall in the West with 47 points, three back of a playoff spot.

"We need two points in the standings every game we have from now on," said Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett, who became the 39th coach in league history to be on the bench for 700 games. "I thought we had a good effort out there tonight and it's a shame we didn't get the two points."

The Coyotes have lost six of their last seven on the road and close out their swing tonight in Columbus against a Blue Jackets club that has lost 10 of its last 12 games and is last in the NHL with 27 points.

The Blue Jackets fired head coach Scott Arniel on Monday and dropped a 5-2 decision to the Blackhawks on Tuesday under interim head coach Todd Richards. R.J. Umberger and Antoine Vermette scored the goals and Curtis Sanford gave up four goals on 24 shots.

"There were some good things and some things we have to work on. Our defensive zone, around the net, we gave up some easy goals there," said Richards. "It's been a tough couple days but we hung in there. We're heading home and after a day of rest and practice tomorrow will do us good for the weekend."

Columbus wrapped up a four-game road trip with only one win and will play its next four at home. The Blue Jackets have lost four straight and seven of eight at home.

Umberger extended his club record of 288 consecutive games played on Tuesday, but that run will come to an end tonight after he left practice on Thursday with concussion-like symptoms. Umberger took an elbow to the head at Anaheim on Sunday, but played the entire game on Tuesday.

Umberger joins forward Jeff Carter (separated right shoulder) and defenseman James Wisniewski (broken left ankle) on the sidelines.

The Coyotes and Blue Jackets are meeting for the first time this season after Phoenix took three of four encounters a season ago. The Coyotes have won six of seven and 10 of the last 12 meetings overall, but did have a six-game winning streak at Columbus end in the last meeting there on Feb. 25, 2011.

01/13 10:50:47 ET

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