COLUMBUS OH - JANUARY 11: Radim Vrbata #17 of the Phoenix Coyotes celebrates a third period goal with Shane Doan #19 and Ray Whitney #13 while playing the Columbus Blue Jackets on January 11 2011 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus Ohio. Phoenix won the game 4-3. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
The Columbus Blue Jackets join the Phoenix Coyotes on the third of a six game homestand Thursday night. The Coyotes look to make it two in a row after picking up an ugly win against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday.
Will the Coyotes be able to take two very important points from the Blue Jackets or will the return of Upshall and Lepisto thwart their plans?
The Columbus Blue Jackets have hovered around the eighth playoff spot for most of the season and the trade for Upshall and Lepisto was designed to give them more assets to finalize that push. However, they have run a very disappointing 2-4-4 in their last ten, and picked up only three regulation wins during the month of March. Their lack of production on both sides of the puck caused Blue Jackets' goalie Steve Mason to opine to reporters Monday night after a loss against the New Jersey Devils, "It's a crappy feeling and an embarrassing effort tonight. It's frustrating. We just couldn't generate anything in their zone. For a team that is looking for a playoff spot right now, the effort we put forth isn't acceptable."
What is going wrong for the Blue Jackets has gone somewhat right for the Coyotes going 7-2-1 in their last ten and only losing three games in regulation in the month of March. The slight concern is that during the first periods of both games on this homestand, the Coyotes looked lackluster, not finding their legs until the second and third periods. Having better starts will be focus for this team tonight.
Five for Winning
- Having a good start against a team that's desperate for a win would be a top priority for this playoff bound team.
- They have to stop playing down to their opposition. The Coyotes need to keep pace with the San Jose Sharks who won against the Dallas Stars last night.
- I keep writing this, but it still hasn't changed the outcome - the power play lacks power. They look completely lost out there that as they go up on the man advantage they get outworked by the oppositions' penalty kill. The book has been out on the Coyotes all season - pressure their power play and they'll fold. If they want to get past the first round, that must change sooner than later.
- Bryzgalov has faced a ton of shots early in games only to lock things down until his group gets their legs moving. Limiting his shots in the first period can only help.
- Be aggressive on the forecheck - control the game. Even though Upshall and Lepisto were popular here, they will be motivated to play their best game against a team that got rid of them. Remember that they are wearing a different set of colors and spoil the outcome for them.