NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Monday, December 21st (All times eastern)
Columbus Blue Jackets (14-15-7) at Phoenix Coyotes (21-13-2), 9 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Phoenix Coyotes will attempt to maintain their recent excellent play at Jobing.com Arena when the surging club begins a three-game homestand with tonight's clash against the reeling Columbus Blue Jackets.
Phoenix has won its last six home games and is a strong 12-5-0 as the host so far this season. That outstanding record has helped get the Coyotes, who haven't reached the postseason since 2001-02, off to a strong start towards their goal of making the playoffs. Phoenix currently has 44 points for the season and trails both San Jose and Los Angeles by three points for first place in the Pacific Division.
The Coyotes haven't prevailed in seven straight home tilts since their last playoff season, when the team had an eight-game win streak at the U.S. Airways Center from February 12-March 24, 2002.
Phoenix returns home after splitting four tests during a six-day road trip that ended with Saturday's 4-2 setback at Anaheim. Although the Coyotes outshot the Ducks by a 41-33 margin, they were whistled for eight minor penalties and allowed Anaheim to convert 2-of-7 power-play opportunities.
"We did everything we could to give the game away," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We took bad penalty after bad penalty. We had defensive breakdowns. When we take that many penalties, especially with our schedule, it just wears too many guys down and its going to bite you."
Ilya Bryzgalov made 33 saves in a losing effort, with Shane Doan and Adrian Aucoin recording the goals for Phoenix.
Bryzgalov has posted a stellar 12-3-0 record and 1.65 goals against average in 15 starts at Jobing.com Arena this season.
Columbus enters tonight's matchup on a season-worst six-game losing streak (0-4-2) and began a stretch of four straight away outings with Saturday's 5-2 setback at Colorado. That loss followed a 2-1 shootout defeat to the Coyotes in Columbus on Thursday.
The Avalanche scored four times in the game's first eight minutes, with Blue Jackets netminder Steve Mason pulled just 4:15 into the contest after letting in three goals on only seven shots.
"They started quick and we didn't," said Mason afterward. "We are digging the hole deeper and deeper. It sucks to be in the position that we're in. The other teams just seem to be more prepared at the start of the games."
Mathieu Garon is expected to get the call between the pipes for Columbus tonight. The journeyman backstop stopped 26-of-27 chances in Thursday's loss to Phoenix and made 36 saves to shut out the Coyotes in a 2-0 verdict in Glendale back on October 10.
R.J. Umberger and Jason Chimera each scored for the Blue Jackets in Saturday's game, with Garon turning back 22-of-24 shots in a relief effort.
Defenseman Anton Stralman missed the game with a stomach virus and is considered questionable for tonight's test.
The Coyotes have won six of the last seven meetings between these teams, including two of three encounters that have taken place this season.
12/21 11:03:37 ET