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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Thursday, December 17th (All times eastern)

Phoenix Coyotes (20-12-2) at Columbus Blue Jackets (14-14-6), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Columbus Blue Jackets will try to avoid a fifth straight loss when they welcome the Phoenix Coyotes for tonight's battle at Nationwide Arena.

In addition to losing their last four outings, the Blue Jackets have also dropped seven of eight and 12 of their last 14 games. The funk has dropped Columbus into fourth place in the Central Division, where it's just one point ahead of St. Louis.

Columbus was handed its most recent setback Tuesday in Minnesota, as the Wild scored the game-winner in the final minute of regulation to secure the 2-1 victory.

Marek Zidlicky scored with 38.8 seconds left in the third period to deal the Blue Jackets a heartbreaking loss at Xcel Energy Center. Zidlicky unleashed a slapper from the point that beat Steve Mason top shelf just moments before the game was ready to head to overtime.

Rick Nash scored the lone goal for the Blue Jackets, who haven't managed to earn in point in three straight games since losing a shootout decision last week in Nashville. Mason turned aside 21-of-23 shots for Columbus, but fell to 10-11-5 on the season.

Columbus is 8-6-3 as the host this year and has lost four of its last five on home ice. Following tonight, the Jackets will head out on a four-game road trip, beginning with Saturday's test in Colorado.

The Coyotes are coming off a solid road win Wednesday night in Toronto, as they downed the Maple Leafs, 6-3, at Air Canada Centre behind a pair of goals from Petr Prucha.

Vernon Fiddler, Paul Bissonnette and Scottie Upshall scored in the win, while Keith Yandle and Martin Hanzal each recorded three assists for the Coyotes, who have won two of three and seven of their last nine games.

Radim Vrbata had an empty-net goal and an assist, scoring for the fourth straight contest to up his team-leading goal total to 11. Ilya Bryzgalov checked in with 27 saves as Phoenix moved to 1-1-0 on a four-game road trip.

Phoenix, which is 8-7-2 as the guest this year, will complete its swing Saturday in Anaheim.

The Coyotes and Blue Jackets have split two meetings this year with each club winning a game on the road. Phoenix has taken six of eight overall in the series and has won its last four in Ohio.

12/17 10:42:56 ET

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