Surging Coyotes visit struggling Jackets
COYOTES (20-12-2) at BLUE JACKETS (14-14-6)
-- Phoenix 7-2-1; Columbus 2-5-3.
-- This is the second of four meetings between the teams. The Coyotes earned a 4-1 win at Columbus on Oct. 28 thanks to a 31-save performance by Jason LaBarbera.
-- Picked by many to finish near the bottom of the NHL standings, Phoenix is just rolling right along. The Coyotes picked up their 20th victory of the season on Wednesday night and improved to 7-1-1 in their last nine games with a 6-3 victory at Toronto.
It will be an especially significant night for Coyotes captain Shane Doan, who will be playing in his 1,000th regular-season game. Doan is the lone Coyote who came with the franchise when it moved from Winnipeg 13 years ago.
-- Offense wasn't hard to come by on Wednesday for Phoenix, which scored four times during the second period. Petr Prucha had a pair of goals in the victory, while Keith Yandle and Martin Hanzal each had three assists. Toronto managed to get the score within 5-3, but Phoenix hung on and sealed the deal with an empty-net goal by Radim Vrbata.
"We wanted to stay aggressive," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We gave up a couple late, but I thought our guys competed hard."
-- Columbus' recent struggles continued on Tuesday night as it suffered a 2-1 loss at Minnesota. The Blue Jackets were denied a point when Marek Zidlicky broke a 1-1 tie in the final minute of regulation. It was their seventh straight loss on the road (0-4-3) and they fell to 2-8-4 in their last 14 games.
"We made mistakes," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said during what was a very brief press conference.
-- Coyotes forward Robert Lang has seven points (2 goals, 5 assists) in his last 12 games. … Blue Jackets center R.J. Umberger
has 7 goals and 7 assists in his last 14 contests.
-- Phoenix defenseman Kurt Sauer (neck) is out indefinitely. … Columbus defenseman Rostislav Klesla
(lower body) is out six weeks, while right wing Derek Dorsett
is expected to miss four weeks with a broken hand.
-- The fact that Dorsett is expected to miss an extended period of time is not good news for the Blue Jackets. The rugged forward missed nine games in November, during which time Columbus won once (1-5-3).
-- "He's given us a chance when there's a breakdown. He's cleaned up a lot of messes for us." -- Phoenix coach Dave Tippett on goalie Ilya Bryzgalov