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Arizona Coyotes travel to face hapless Columbus Blue Jackets

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The Coyotes go back East for the second time this season.

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Coyotes have won three in a row and four of their last five out West. Now it's time to see if they can keep those winning ways out East.

Arizona begins the first of three road games against the Eastern Conference tonight when they play the Columbus Blue Jackets in Columbus.

Matchup at a Glance

Arizona Coyotes Columbus Blue Jackets
Points 19 (2nd Pacific) 10 (8th Metropolitan)
Goals For 2.88 (T-8th) 2.35 (23rd)
Goals Against 2.75 (19th) 3.53 (29th)
Power Play 12.5% (29th) 21.0% (10th)
Penalty Kill 83.3% (T-9th) 77.6% (22nd)
5v5 Corsi For 47.1% (27th) 49.6% (15th)
PDO 102.3 (4th) 96.2 (28th)

View from Arizona

Resilience was a big theme going into this season, and thus far the Coyotes seem to have taken it to heart. Arizona trailed in the first period of all three of their victories this week, and were still able to scratch and claw and come out ahead.

Their 4-1 win against Edmonton was almost the complete package. They got power play scoring, secondary scoring, defensive scoring, and a solid performance in net from Mike Smith. All four factors are absolutely crucial to the team's long-term success.

Yet, trailing every single game is not a good habit, especially if the Coyotes find themselves in desperate need of a point or two down the stretch. Wins are nice, but complete wins are even better.

View from Columbus

For the Jackets' perspective, be sure to check out The Cannon

It's been a nightmarish start for the Columbus Blue Jackets this year. A brutal 0-8-0 start cost Todd Richards his head coaching job, and ushered in the John Tortorella era in Columbus. The Jackets have righted the ship somewhat, with three wins in their last five games. But that's a far cry from the lofty expectations many (yours truly included) had for the team at season's start.

The major reason for Columbus' early struggles has been the abysmal performance by goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. The 2012-13 Vezina Trophy winner is 5-9-0 this year with a 3.44 GAA and a .888 save percentage, which is dead last of any goaltender with 10+ starts this season.

That being said, he's not getting a ton of help from his defense. The Jackets are near the bottom of the league in goals against, despite a below average (though not terrible) penalty kill. Columbus' losing ways may also turn out to be unsustainably bad, but it has definitely put the Jackets behind the eight ball early on.

Keys to the Game

  • Jump Out Early - The Coyotes need to start controlling the game faster. Columbus is a team they can do that to.
  • Good Penalty Killing - Columbus has a deceptively good power play thanks in large part to players like Brandon Saad and Scott Hartnell. The Coyotes need to take fewer penalties and be solid fundamentally when shorthanded.
  • Consistent Pressure - Leading or trailing, the Coyotes need to keep the puck in the Jackets' end. It's hard to score when you don't have the puck.

Players to Watch

Oliver Ekman-Larsson has a goal and three assists in his last five games. It's a good sign for the Coyotes if he's heating up.

Columbus' goal leader this season is Boone Jenner, who has eight in 17 games. He missed a substantial amount of time with injuries last year, so the 22 year old is bouncing back in a big way early on.

Injury Report

Steve Downie is considered doubtful for tonight's game, while Nicklas Grossmann and Joe Vitale remain on injured reserve.

The fact that the Jackets are relatively healthy this season is probably cause for some celebration. David Clarkson and Alexander Wennberg are both on injured reserve, but both should be back before the end of the month.

Puck Drop

Tonight's game gets underway at 5 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona Plus or listen on ESPN 620 AM.