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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Thursday, March 24th (All times eastern)

Columbus Blue Jackets (33-29-11) at Phoenix Coyotes (40-24-11), 10 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Defenseman Rostislav Klesla didn't get to enjoy much playoff hockey during his tenure with the Blue Jackets. A chance to get back to the postseason has made his trade to the Coyotes easier to digest.

Klesla will face his former club tonight for the first time as Phoenix hosts Columbus at Arena.

The 29-year-old Klesla skated in 515 games with the Blue Jackets after they made him their first ever draft pick back in 2000. His tenure in Columbus featured 41 goals and 92 assists, but only one appearance in the postseason in 2009 and even then the Blue Jackets were swept in four games by the Red Wings.

With Columbus again facing an uphill battle for a postseason spot, the Blue Jackets dealt Klesla to the Coyotes on Feb. 28 for forward Scottie Upshall and defenseman Sami Lepisto. Though Klesla has just one goal in nine games since the deal, he joined a club that is currently fourth overall in the West, three points back of the first-place Sharks in the Pacific Division race and three up on the Blackhawks, Kings and Predators in the overall Western standings.

Klesla's Coyotes have also played one more game than San Jose, which is visiting Los Angeles tonight. That should make his main goal in this game getting two points.

"I'm sure it will be kind of weird to play against my old friends. ... It should be interesting. I'm just hoping that we're going to get the win," Klesla told the Coyotes' website.

Phoenix has split the first two contests of a six-game homestand after having a seven-game point streak (6-0-1) end with Sunday's loss to visiting Chicago. The Coyotes hosted the Blackhawks following a perfect four-game road trip and rebounded on Tuesday with a 2-1 victory over the Blues.

"The reality is we haven't had a full practice in a week now," said Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett. "You're looking at a group of players that's competed really hard. You're looking at some fatigue until you're up and going and into the game."

Ray Whitney and Lauri Korpikoski both scored and Ilya Bryzgalov made 29 saves, including 22 over the final two periods. He is 8-5-0 with a 2.53 goals-against average lifetime versus the Blue Jackets.

Columbus has just two victories in its last 13 games (2-6-5) and lost for the fourth time in five outings on Tuesday, 5-4, at Colorado. Steve Mason made 28 saves, but gave up a game-tying goal with just 3.3 seconds left in regulation the lone tally of a shootout.

R.J. Umberger scored twice, including once shorthanded. Derek MacKenzie also scored while down a man and Rick Nash lit the lamp for Columbus, which is 10 points back of a postseason spot with nine games to play.

"They did not quit; they are young and hungry," Umberger said of the Avs. "I [tip] my hat to them."

Forward Ethan Moreau is unlikely to play tonight after suffering a bruised foot versus the Avalanche.

Mason is just 1-4-0 with a 3.25 GAA in his career versus the Coyotes, while Mathieu Garon is 6-6-2 with a 2.52 GAA against the club.

The Blue Jackets ended a five-game series losing streak to the Coyotes in the last meeting on Feb. 25 thanks to Matt Calvert's natural hat trick as well as a goal and two assists from Umberger.

Columbus has still lost two straight and four of their last five at Phoenix.

03/24 11:04:57 ET

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