GAME DAY: at Phoenix
The Blue Jackets start a set of back-to-back games against the Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena
BLUE JACKETS (1-0-1) AT COYOTES (0-2-0)
JOBING.COM ARENA | GLENDALE, AZ
10 P.M. TONIGHT
TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO (HD) | RADIO: 97.1 FM & BLUEJACKETS.COM
For the second consecutive game, the Blue Jackets will face an opponent eager to make amends and get back on track.
On Monday night at Nationwide Arena, it was the Detroit Red Wings who spoiled a sold-out home opener with a 4-3 shootout victory. And now in their second road game of the young NHL season, the Blue Jackets draw a Coyotes club that hasn't found any sort of traction in its game. Phoenix was involved in a third-period barnburner with the Dallas Stars on Saturday night and eventually dropped a 4-3 final, and two nights ago against Chicago, found themselves in a similar situation with the Blackhawks.
A back-and-forth shootout kind of game resulted in the Blackhawks' second win of the season and another head-scratcher for the usually stout Coyotes defense, which has yielded 10 goals in the first two games of the season. Mike Smith, who was the story of the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring, has surprisingly struggled in Phoenix's first two games but he hasn't received much help from his defense. The Blackhawks were brilliant off the rush and exploited the Coyotes on Sunday night, and a wise person would surmise that Dave Tippett will have his group fully prepared for the Blue Jackets.
The Coyotes welcomed back captain Shane Doan with a new four-year contract over the summer after a brief free-agent flirtation with a handful of NHL clubs. He's their undisputed offensive leader and often plays alongside big center Martin Hanzal on the No. 1 line, and the support scoring is also strong. Radim Vrbata is a perennial 30-goal threat and the addition of Antoine Vermette last February gives Phoenix balance through the middle of the ice. GM Don Maloney strengthened the center position even further by acquiring Matthew Lombardi from Toronto last week, setting up Lombardi's second tour of duty in Glendale.
Steve Sullivan and David Moss were under-the-radar free agent pickups for Phoenix that add to the forward group, but the most exciting part of their team is on the blue line. Several young prospects are already in the mix, including Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Michael Stone (recently called up) and prospect David Rundblad, who is currently playing in Portland (AHL). Rostislav Klesla, Derek Morris and Zbynek Michalek are solid veteran presences on defense for Phoenix that make it a well-balanced group, and one that can match up well with most clubs in the Western Conference.
- The Blue Jackets and Coyotes begin their three-game season series tonight. Their next meeting is Feb. 16 at Jobing.com Arena, and then Mar. 16 at Nationwide Arena. Phoenix has won 13 of 22 all-time meetings against the Blue Jackets on home ice.
- Phoenix was 15-for-15 on the penalty kill vs. Columbus last season,
- Blue Jackets forward Vinny Prospal is seven assists shy of 500 for his NHL career. He has registered 3-14-17 in 22 career games against the Coyotes.
- Derick Brassard loves playing the Coyotes, and last season, played some of his best hockey against Phoenix in two meetings down the stretch. He's recorded 6-7-13 in 16 games versus the Coyotes in his career.
LEFT WING | NO. 89
2011-12 STATS: 11-13-24, -2
Boedker still hasn't reached his full potential as a former first-round pick (8th overall, 2008) but he certainly became a Coyotes legend with overtime heroics in last year's Stanley Cup playoffs. He scored some big goals in Phoenix's series with the Blackhawks and finished the playoffs with eight points (four goals, four assists) in 16 games. The flashy Dane can dangle and snipe, and some think it's only a matter of time before he puts it all together.
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