|CBJ||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||4|
|PHX||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||3|
The Columbus Blue Jackets set a franchise record for the longest home winning streak in their last game. The challenge for Ken Hitchcock's team will be to duplicate that success on the road.
The Blue Jackets look to avoid a season high-tying third straight road loss as they kick off a five-game trip on Thursday night with a matchup against the Phoenix Coyotes, who seek their fifth consecutive home win.
Columbus (22-18-6) has lost three in a row on the road twice this season, and its six victories away from home are the fewest in the Western Conference.
With the Blue Jackets looking to reach the postseason for the first time in franchise history, Hitchcock knows his team must improve its play outside Columbus.
"We have to prove we can win on the road. There's no better feeling than winning on the road," he said. "We've pretty much done our job at home, but we're going to have to play at a higher level to win on the road."
The Blue Jackets have had some recent success on the Coyotes' home ice, going 2-0-1 after recording six losses and three ties there since joining the NHL in 2000. Columbus will face Dallas twice, Colorado and Chicago on this week-long trip.
A 3-2 victory over Vancouver on Tuesday gave Columbus its franchise-record sixth straight home win. Jason Chimera's goal with 3:17 to play in the second period snapped a 2-all tie, and helped the Blue Jackets improve to 16-6-4 at Nationwide Arena.
One of those victories was a 3-0 win over Phoenix (24-20-1) on Oct. 10. Pascal Leclaire made 32 saves for one of his league-leading seven shutouts, and Chimera had a goal and two assists.
Columbus' Nikolai Zherdev has been dominant at home, but will need to play better on the road.
Zherdev had a goal and an assist against the Canucks, extending his home points streak to five games (five goals, six assists). But he's failed to record a point in four straight road games, and has only six goals and five assists in 20 games away from Columbus this season.
He also hasn't registered a point in six career games against the Coyotes, who will be looking to win five straight at home for the first time since Nov. 14-Dec. 4, 2006.
On Tuesday, Phoenix got a goal and three assists from All-Star defenseman Ed Jovanovski in a 5-3 home win over San Jose.
"We're a much more confident group right now," Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. "They believe in each other. They believe in the system that we're playing. Early in the year, it was a new system for a lot of people."
Shane Doan added two goals and an assist, and rookie Peter Mueller had a career-high three assists as the Coyotes improved to 9-10-1 at home. The surge at Jobing.com Arena also has the Coyotes in the running for their first playoff appearance since 2001-02.
"This is a huge homestand for us," Gretzky said. "We have five games in a row here before the All-Star break. It's an opportunity for us to really get ourselves in the middle of this race."
Ilya Bryzgalov made 21 saves Tuesday for Phoenix en route to winning his third straight home start. Since joining Phoenix in November off waivers from Anaheim, Bryzgalov is 6-3-1 with a 1.87 goals-against average at home.
He lost his only career start against the Blue Jackets on Jan. 5, 2007 while with the Ducks.
|Feb 07 '08||CBJ 2 at PHX 1||N. Zherdev|
|Jan 29 '08||PHX 4 at CBJ 2||P. Mueller|
|Jan 17 '08||CBJ 4 at PHX 3||R. Nash|
|Oct 10 '07||PHX 0 at CBJ 3||M. Malhotra|