Game Preview #80 - Close It Out In Style

The Jackets end their home slate tonight as the Coyotes come to town. Two points would put Columbus ever so close to clinching the right to have at least two more games at NWA.

Phoenix Coyotes at Columbus Blue Jackets

April 8, 2014 - 7:00 pm EDT
Nationwide Arena - Columbus, Ohio
Radio - WBNS 97.1 - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponent's Blog: Five For Howling
SBN's Blue Jackets vs Coyotes coverage

It's been quite awhile since we last saw the Coyotes, but oddly enough, both games have marked the return from injury for one Nathan Horton. Horton comes back tonight as the Jackets end their home schedule... for now.

The last time these clubs met was a bit of a turning point for Columbus. They'd been improving from the 5-10-0 start, and had gone on a 12-9-4 stretch through late November and December. But, that game in Phoenix in early January marked the start of a 9-1-0 run, and overall since then the Jackets have gone 23-12-3 (49 points in 38 games).

The Jackets got some serious help last night as Calgary took care of New Jersey in New Jersey to the tune of a 1-0 shutout. That said, they can't sit back now. A win tonight would give them a stranglehold on a playoff spot, and would keep the door open for passing Detroit or Philadelphia. That said, the Yotes are fighting for a spot themselves, currently sitting one point behind Dallas with the same number of games played.

[checks schedule]


A walkover this will not be.

The Coyotes, however, have not been playing their best hockey of late, currently on a 2-3-3 stretch. They've been riding Thomas Greiss in net (which means there's no chance that Mike Smith will stop 50 bajillion shots or whatever he did that one night two years ago), but their goal-scoring has dried up a bit: they've scored just 14 non-shootout goals in that eight-game stretch.

For the Jackets, the injuries continue to mount, as R.J. Umberger is back out with an injury sustained Sunday evening. Jack Skille was called up, but Corey Tropp gets the start in place of Umberger, while Nathan Horton will be a game-time decision after taking line rushes this morning with the top line. Jared Boll is in the lineup below, but consider him in pencil, as Porty noted on Twitter this morning that Skille might get the start on the fourth line in Boll's place. Reading some tea leaves, one would also imagine that if Horton cannot go tonight, Skille gets in there as well. So, my guess is that we'll see Skille tonight.

(But, ENERGY! amirite??)

The biggest stat of note for the Coyotes is that, while their offense has gone away, their potent Power Play has NOT. They boast a top-five PP unit, and of those 14 goals I noted above, five of them came on the man advantage; they have Power Play goals in eight of their last 11 games (8-for-38, 21.1%). The Jackets' PK has gone 22-for-26 (84.6%) over the past nine games.

Of course, the Jackets' PP unit has been hot of late as well, going 9-for-24 (37.5%) over the last seven games. The Coyotes' PK is one of the league's worst over the course of the season... but not so fast: they've been solid of late in killing of 17-of-20 over their last nine games. Which team can be disciplined--and which PK unit can hold up--tonight may tell the story of this game.

Of note on special teams: when the teams played in January, both Columbus goals came on Power Plays, and the Jackets were 5-for-5 on the PK. Not that past performance is an indicator of future growth... just a note.

No matter how they do it, the Jackets simply need to get points. One point officially eliminates Ottawa and Carolina, and two points puts the screws to New Jersey, Washington, and Toronto by putting their tragic numbers down to two, two, and one points respectively.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(40-31-7, 87 Points; 4th division, 8th conference)

Boone Jenner Ryan Johansen Nathan Horton
Matt Calvert Brandon Dubinsky Cam Atkinson
Blake Comeau Artem Anisimov Mark Letestu
Corey Tropp Derek MacKenzie Jared Boll
Fedor Tyutin James Wisniewski
Jack Johnson Dalton Prout
Ryan Murray David Savard
Sergei Bobrovsky
Curtis McElhinney

Phoenix Coyotes
(36-28-14, 86 Points; 4th division, 9th conference)

Mikkel Boedker Antoine Vermette Shane Doan
Lauri Korpikoski Martin Hanzal Radim Vrbata
Brandon McMillan Mike Ribeiro David Moss
Kyle Chipchura Jeff Halpern Martin Erat
Oliver Ekman-Larsson Zbynek Michalek
Keith Yandle Michael Stone
Chris Summers Derek Morris
Thomas Greiss
Mark Visentin

Season Series

01/02/14 - Columbus 2 at Phoenix 0
04/08/14 - Phoenix at Columbus

Head to Head Stats

Phoenix Columbus
2.60 (20) GPG 2.74 (13)
2.74 (18) GAPG 2.63 (13)
20.6% (4) PP% 18.7% (12)
79.6% (27) PK% 82.0% (15)
Antoine Vermette, 24 G leader Ryan Johansen, 31
Keith Yandle, 44 A leader James Wisniewski, 41
Keith Yandle, 52 Pts leader Ryan Johansen, 57
Martin Hanzal, 73 PIM leader Nick Foligno, 96
15-15-9 Road/Home 21-15-4
4/4 vs. Edmonton, L 3-2 (SO) Last Game 4/6 vs. NY Islanders, W 4-0
4-3-3 Last 10 5-4-1

Subscribe to The Cannon

Don’t miss out on the latest articles. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only articles.