Phoenix Coyotes vs Columbus Blue Jackets preview: Star of the final road trip

Christian Petersen

The Coyotes face off against the Blue Jackets for the final time this season as they hope for a better result then their 2-0 loss in January.

The Columbus Blue Jackets and the Phoenix Coyotes are both deep in the playoff race with both teams needing points to either shore up their playoff spot or earn one.

Matchup at a Glance


Phoenix Coyotes

Columbus Blue Jackets

Points

86 (9th in West)

87 (8th in East)

Goals For

2.60 (20th)

2.74 (13th)

Goals Against

2.74 (18th)

2.63 (13th)

Power Play Percentage

20.6 (4th)

18.7 (12th)

Penalty Kill Percentage

79.6 (27th)

82.0 (15th)

Phoenix Coyotes

Currently on the outside looking in, the Coyotes are a point behind the Dallas Stars for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Unfortunately for the Desert Dogs, they are 0-2-2 in their past four games with shootout losses to the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets and regulation losses to the LA Kings and Minnesota Wild. The Coyotes need to right the ship going into the final four games of the regular season in order to catch Dallas and make the playoffs.

The Coyotes have been getting more offense from their defensemen than their forwards as of late. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Zbynek Michalek, and Chris Summers all have goals in the past five games. The Yotes need to get offense from their top contributors like Radim Vrbata, Mike Ribeiro, and Antoine Vermette, especially down the final stretch.

Columbus Blue Jackets

This is the final regular season game for the Blue Jackets in Nationwide Arena this year and they are likely to want to put on a good game for the home crowd. Columbus has done surprisingly well in their first year in the Eastern Conference. According to sportsclubstats.com, they have a 93.8 percent chance of making the playoffs and face off against either the Boston Bruins or the Pittsburgh Penguins.

For Columbus, 21-year-old center Ryan Johansen has emerged as a potent part of their offense. He is 31-26-57 in 78 games good enough to lead the team in goals and points. Brandon Dubinsky is also having a great season in Columbus, leading the team with 33 assists, and James Wisniewski is currently 6th amongst all NHL defenseman in assists with 41.

Keys to the Game

Finish strong. The Coyotes have had difficulties closing out games for most of this season, and they need to remember that it is a 60-minute game. Most recently, they allowed the Oilers to tie the game in the final minute, which ultimately led to Edmonton winning in the shootout.

The forwards need to show up. As stated above, the Desert Dogs have gotten just as many goals from their defensemen as they have from their forwards as of late. If the Coyotes can get productivity from their top two lines in addition to the blue line, they should be in a good position.

Win. Seriously, the team needs to get two points tonight at all costs to keep themselves in the playoff race.

Likely Starting Goaltender

Thomas Greiss

#1 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes

6-1

220

Jan 29, 1986

GP MIN W L OTL GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2013 - Thomas Greiss 22 1131 9 7 4 43 2.28 556 556 .923 2

Although Mike Smith recently began practicing with the team, he is still a ways away from being ready to play, which means this is still Thomas Greiss' team. Greiss has been solid since Smith was injured, with the exception of the LA Kings gamewhich saw him give up four goals and post an .875 save percentage.

Player to Watch


Oliver Ekman-Larsson

#23 / Defenseman / Phoenix Coyotes

6-2

190

Jul 17, 1991


G A P +/- PIM
2013 - Oliver Ekman-Larsson 14 29 443 -2 48

Ekman-Larsson had a goal and an assist against the Oilers and had an assist against the Minnesota Wild and has set career highs for goals, assists, points and power play goals. The young Swedish defenseman has been solid for most of the season and currently leads the team in average time on ice per game with 25:55, which puts him 6th among all NHL players.

Injuries

Martin Hanzal is day-to-day with a lower-body injury and David Schlemko and Mike Smith are out for the foreseeable future with lower-body injuries.

For Columbus Nathan Horton is out indefinitely, and set to be the first player to have a goal in a game he didn't play in, and Nikita Nikitin is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

Puck Drop

This is the final super early start for the Coyotes for the regular season as the game starts at 4:00 pm in Columbus. It will be shown on Fox Sports Arizona and KMVP 860 AM.

Update: (s/t to @PimaResMendez)

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