Columbus Blue Jackets @ Phoenix Coyotes: Previewing the Home Finale

COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 13: Curtis Sanford #30 of the Columbus Blue Jackets makes the save in front of Radim Vrbata #17 of the Phoenix Coyotes during their game at Nationwide Arena on January 13, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio. The Blue Jackets defeated the Coyotes 4-3. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)


The Phoenix Coyotes are in control of their own destiny with just three games left to play. Winning out will assure them of a spot in the playoffs, and with the match-ups for their Pacific Division foes including several head-to-head games, it might even take significantly less to make the postseason. Of course, the Coyotes really want to take the Pacific Division crown and the home ice advantage that comes with it, so getting all 6 points over the final week will be key.

In the first game of the week, the Coyotes will get a chance to exact some revenge against a team that has had their number all year, even if they haven't had anyone else's number, the Columbus Blue Jackets. The BJs are on pace to the worst record in the NHL, but that hasn't stopped them from dominating the Coyotes in 3 match-ups so far this season, and also playing a pretty impressive string of games recently. Columbus is riding a three game winning streak against teams all headed to the postseason in Detroit, Florida and President Trophy hopeful St. Louis. The Coyotes will need to bring their A game to Glendale tomorrow night to secure the much needed 2 points.

Five For Winning

1. Exact Some Revenge. Columbus has posted its first ever 3 win season against the Coyotes, and it's time to pay them back for the favor; certainly the Coyotes can't afford to be swept by the worst team in the league right now.

2. Clear Out the Front. Columbus scores ugly goals against the Coyotes by using a lot of traffic in front of the net (or by sitting on the goalie). The D needs to step up and keep that slot area clear for Mike Smith to do his job.

3. Keep the Special Teams Hot. The Coyotes power play has converted 4 of its past 5 opportunities. Yes, you read that right, 4 of 5. I don't know how really, but the unit is finally clicking and taking advantage of the other teams' mistakes. They need to keep that going.

4. Mike Smith, Vezina finalist? Smith is on his second extended run this season without allowing a goal. When the worst team in the league is your next opponent, I see no reason that this streak needs to end on Tuesday.

5. The Next 1000. Ray Whitney didn't waste much time getting started on his next 1000 points, scoring his 1001st just 40 seconds after his 1000th. The Prime Line is healthy again and has resumed their scoring chemistry that was so prevalent earlier in the season. Let's see them continue this against Columbus.

Players to Watch


Radim Vrbata

#17 / Right Wing / Phoenix Coyotes

6-1

190

Jun 13, 1981



G A P +/- PIM
2011 - Radim Vrbata 33 27 60 23 22


Vrbata is having a career year with the Wizard feeding him pucks. Since returning from his allergic reaction he has 3 goals in 2 games. Not too shabby.


R.J. Umberger

#18 / Left Wing / Columbus Blue Jackets

6-2

220

May 03, 1982



G A P +/- PIM
2011 - R.J. Umberger 19 19 38 -12 23


Rick Nash kills the Coyotes on a regular basis and I expect that he will be seeing an awful lot of Rostislav Klesla and Martin Hanzal in an attempt to keep him off the scoresheet tomorrow night. Columbus' second best scorer (in my opinion) also has the ability to hurt you and the Coyotes need to make sure they are paying equal attention to stopping Umberger from thwarting their hopes at revenge.

Likely Starters


Mike Smith

#41 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes

6-4

215

Mar 22, 1982



GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2011 - Mike Smith 64 3723 35 18 142 2.29 1956 1814 .927 7


Yeah, it's Smith from here on out...go get 'em Smitty!


Allen York

#41 / Goalie / Columbus Blue Jackets

6-4

190

Jun 17, 1989



GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2011 - Allen York 10 358 3 1 14 2.35 177 163 .921 0


York has been pretty solid since getting the call up for the BJs. He's been in net all three games during Columbus' winning streak and has a lot to prove. Coyotes need to jump on him early and often tomorrow night.

Injuries


Phoenix Coyotes Injuries

Doubtful

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Taylor Pyatt other-excused 04/01/2012


Columbus Blue Jackets Injuries

Questionable

Player Injury Type Injury Date
John Moore other-excused 04/01/2012

Doubtful

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Steve Mason head 04/01/2012

Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Radek Martinek concussion 10/22/2011
Marc Methot jaw 02/10/2012
Kristian Huselius groin 12/07/2011


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