The climb out from the bottom of the Western Conference has begun for the Arizona Coyotes, who in their last seven games have points in five of them. On the back end of a home and home, the Coyotes face the Columbus Blue Jackets once again after a grueling loss Saturday night.
Will they come out of Columbus with a W and two points?
View From Columbus
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Columbus is about as hot as the sun right now. 7-1-2 in their last ten games and only four points away from being the top team in the league. With a talented offense and solid defense, the Blue Jackets have emerged as one of the leagues early contenders. A return of form for goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has greatly attributed to their hot start.
With the best power play in the league and eight players with double-digit points already, Columbus is a very deadly team when they are attacking. On the other end of the spectrum with 2.22 goals against per game average, good enough for fifth in the league, opposing teams are struggling to score against them.
View From Arizona
The Arizona Coyotes seem to be on the cusp of turning the page on the early season funk they have been in. With points in five out of their last seven games, the Coyotes are headed in the right direction. One reason for this is the stellar play by goaltender Mike Smith.
After showing glimpses of it throughout the last couple of seasons Smith is playing the best hockey has played in years. Which is even more impressive when you consider the defensive struggles the team has been having. He will need to bring his A-game once again for tonight’s match.
1. Will the Coyotes defense show up tonight? - The Coyotes have surrendered 133 shots in their last three games, which is almost 45 per game. Despite Mike Smith’s stellar performance as of late letting your goalie bail you out every single night isn’t a recipe for success.
2. How much longer will Anthony Duclair’s slump last? - Anthony Duclair seems to be going through a sophomore slump here with the Coyotes. After recording 44 points last season Duclair has gotten off to an ice cold start this year, with only four points and twenty-seven shots this season. The Coyotes offensive struggles are well known and one remedy for that could be Duclair heating up.
3. Can the Coyotes avoid the penalty box and the best power play in the league? - On Saturday night the Coyotes took five penalties and luckily were able to stymie the Blue Jackets power play despite it being the best in the league. It also helped that the Coyotes have the second best penalty kill on home ice. Arizona can’t afford to do that again tonight and must stay out of the box.
Players to Watch
Arizona - Radim Vrbata - In his third stint in the desert Vrbata hasn’t missed a beat and like seasons before has been a key contributor to the Coyotes offense. He leads the team in goals and is tied for second in assists.
Columbus - Sergei Bobrovsky - Much like Mike Smith after a few rough seasons the Russian netminder seems to have found his groove again. Bobrovsky leads the league in wins and is tenth in the league when it comes to his goals against average of 2.08. The Bluejackets success this season will be based off his performance as the season progresses.
Arizona - Besides Brad Richardson being out for quite a while with a broken leg the Coyotes are coming into this game with a clean bill of health.
Columbus - The Blue Jackets come into this game without Dalton Prout who is dealing with back spasms and David Clarkson who is still recovering from his serious back injury.
Tonight’s game starts at 5pm Arizona time. You can watch it on Fox Sports Arizona, Fox Sports Go or listen to it on KTAR News Radio 92.3 FM