Blue Jackets Game 80 Preview: A Chance for a Clean Sweep in the Desert

Mar. 3, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets left wing R.J. Umberger (18) and Phoenix Coyotes right wing Shane Doan (19) battle for the puck during the third period at Jobing.com Arena. The Blue Jackets won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

Columbus Blue Jackets at Phoenix Coyotes

April 3, 2012 - 10:00pm EDT
Jobing.com Arena - Glendale, Arizona
Radio - WBNS FM 97.1 - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponents Blog: Five For Howling

Not much has gone right for the Blue Jackets this season. That might be the understatement of the year, in fact. But, tonight marks a strange, unexpected opportunity for the Jackets: if they can beat the Coyotes tonight, it would be a clean 4-0-0 record against the Desert Dogs on the season.

Obviously, the Yotes wouldn't be real keen on that, for many reasons, the biggest of which would be the fact that they are clinging to the seventh playoff spot in the West right now; every point counts.

For Phoenix, tonight's game marks the end of their home slate, so expect a hearty crowd as the Yotes look to send their fans off, possibly for the season if they can't make the playoffs. They're coming off of a slick 4-0 domination of Anaheim on Saturday, and have only lost once in regulation in their last seven games (4-1-2). In fact, since losing to the Jackets in their last meeting, the Coyotes are 6-2-4, which has helped push them back into the playoff picture.

We've talked ad nauseum about how many teams have lost valuable points to the Jackets along the way down the stretch, and no team fits that description better than Phoenix. Look for them to be extra up for this game.

The Jackets get some good news tonight, as James Wisniewski is back in the lineup after missing seven games with concussion symptoms after taking a deflected shot off his face. He will pair with the Iron Man Jack Johnson. Cody Goloubef has been sent back to Springfield to make room. John Moore is also back tonight, and Dalton Prout should get the sixth D-spot to push Aaron Johnson to the press box.

And, of course, the Jackets get a look at some of their former mates, as the full compliment of "former Jackets" should be in the lineup tonight: Antoine Vermette, Ray Whitney, Raffi Torres, Gilbert Brule, and Rostislav Klesla. Play nice, boys!

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(27-45-7, 61 Points; 5th division, 15th conference)

R.J. Umberger Derick Brassard Cam Atkinson
Vinny Prospal Mark Letestu Rick Nash
Ryan Russell Ryan Johansen Derek Dorsett
Colton Gillies Darryl Boyce Jared Boll
Jack Johnson James Wisniewski
Brett Lebda Nikita Nikitin
John Moore Dalton Prout
Allen York
Steve Mason

Phoenix Coyotes
(39-27-13, 91 Points; 2nd Division, 7th Conference)

Ray Whitney Martin Hanzal Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker Antoine Vermette Lauri Korpikoski
Raffi Torres Daymond Langkow Shane Doan
Boyd Gordon Kyle Chipchura Gilbert Brule
Keith Yandle Derek Morris
Adrian Aucoin Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Rostislav Klesla Michal Rozsival
Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

Season Series

01/13/12 - Phoenix 3 at Columbus 4 - RECAP
03/03/12 - Columbus 5 at Phoenix 2 - RECAP
03/06/12 - Phoenix 2 at Columbus 3 - RECAP
04/03/12 - Columbus at Phoenix

Head to Head

Phoenix Columbus
2.53 (20) GPG 2.35 (28)
2.43 (6) GAPG 3.16 (29)
14.2% (29) PP% 15.1% (26)
84.4% (8) PK% 76.5% (30)
Radim Vrbata, 33 G leader Rick Nash, 27
Ray Whitney, 51 A leader Vinny Prospal, 36
Ray Whitney, 75 Pts leader Rick Nash, 56
Raffi Torres, 64 PIM leader Derek Dorsett, 218
21-13-6 Home/Road 11-24-4
3/31 vs. Anaheim, W 4-0 Last Game 3/31 @ St. Louis, W 5-2
5-2-3 Last 10 5-5-0

Game Notes:

  • Yorkage - Allen York has been a cool story over these last three games, as he's started--and won--all three. York has gotten some help, to the abnormal tune of 13 goals in three games from the CBJ offense, but he's been stout as well: In these three starts, he's played all 180 minutes, and has a 1.67 goals-against while stopping 93 of 98 shots for a .949 save percentage. A ray of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy season, which hopefully earns York a chance to start in Springfield next year and fast-track his future development.
  • Vermy Boost? - While the Coyotes making the playoffs would be cool for Antoine Vermette from a personal standpoint, he hasn't exactly been tearing it up for Phoenix since he's headed out west. In Columbus through 60 games, Vermy had eight goals and 19 assists, for 27 points (.45 points per game), but was -17. In Phoenix, conversely, he's notched just three goals and five assists in 19 games (.42 points per game), however he's +1. One thing that hasn't changed for Vermy, though, is his success in the circle. He won 56.3% of his faceoffs in Columbus, and has won 57.1% of his draws for the Coyotes. So, while the Yotes didn't get a boost in scoring, they've gotten some responsible two-way play and consistent faceoff winning. Pretty much what you'd have expected, no?
  • Umberger with Cheese - One guy who has enjoyed playing out the string is R.J. Umberger. Since the Carolina game a week and a half ago, Umby has racked up eight goals and two assists in six games. The Jackets are 4-2-0 in those games, and Umberger has bolted up to second in goals on the club with 19. He also has a goal and an assist in two games against Phoenix (he missed one due to injury).

The Jackets played like men possessed against St. Louis the other night. If they play with that kind of intensity and commitment, they can beat anybody. Can they beat the Coyotes for the fourth time?

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