COYOTES (36-28-14) at BLUE JACKETS (40-31-7)
Season series: This is the second and final game between the Phoenix Coyotes and Columbus Blue Jackets. Curtis McElhinney stopped all 34 shots he faced as Columbus won 2-0 in Phoenix on Jan. 2. Nathan Horton and RJ Umberger scored the goals.
Big story: They reside in different conferences, but the Coyotes and the Blue Jackets both place a lot of importance on this game as they battle for spots in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Columbus, which moved to the Eastern Conference for the 2013-14 season, is playing its final regular season game at Nationwide Arena and trying to secure just the second postseason trip in franchise history. Phoenix is attempting to chase down the Dallas Stars for the second wild-card berth in the Western Conference.
TV INFO: FOX Sports Arizona will join the game in progress following its coverage of Arizona Diamondbacks baseball. FOX Sports Arizona Plus will air the Coyotes game in its entirety.
Coyotes: A four-game winless streak (0-2-2) has Phoenix facing a second consecutive season out of the playoffs if it can't turn around its fortunes over this final week.
"We'll keep battling," Head Coach Dave Tippett said after Monday's practice. "That's kind of who we are and what we've done. We continue to have to do that every night to have to be successful, and that's just part of our DNA here. I think we're going to hang in there and see if we can find ways to be successful."
The Coyotes are 26-17-5 in 48 all-time meetings vs. the Blue Jackets, but Columbus has won four straight matchups at Nationwide Arena.
There's still no timetable on the return of goalie Mike Smith, so the Coyotes will continue to ride with Thomas Greiss, who is 2-2-3 since coming in after Smith was injured March 24 at the New York Rangers. Smith practiced with the team on Monday in Columbus.
Phoenix's final road game is Thursday against the Nashville Predators before it plays its last two at Jobing.com Arena.
"It's come down to four games and we can determine our own fate so hopefully we can get the success we need," Tippett said.
Forward Mikkel Boedker, who is one point away from reaching 50 points for the first time in his NHL career, leads the team in road scoring with 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists) in 39 games.
Forward Martin Erat will enter the game with 58 points in 61 career games against the Blue Jackets. He has recorded more points vs. Columbus than against any other NHL opponent in his career.
Blue Jackets: This is the final regular-season game at Nationwide Arena for Columbus, which also begins a trying stretch of four games in five nights to finish out. That was necessitated by the make-up of a game against the Dallas Stars which was postponed March 10 after Stars forward Rich Peverley collapsed on the bench. The Blue Jackets will play in Dallas on Wednesday, then continue their road trip in Florida with games Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Saturday against the Florida Panthers.
The Blue Jackets encountered some adversity of their own in recent days, losing a game to the Chicago Blackhawks in the final seconds and failing to gain any points. Behind goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and a power play that connected three times, they bounced back with a 4-0 win Sunday against the New York Islanders.
"It's a big week," right wing Jared Boll said in the Columbus Dispatch. "But this is fun. We'll be ready to go."
Right wing Nathan Horton is expected to reunite with linemates Boone Jenner and Ryan Johansen. Horton has missed the past four games because of a lower-body injury.
Who's hot: Coyotes forward Kyle Chipchura has three goals in his past seven games after scoring twice in his first 69 games. … Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky has one goal and four assists during a four-game point streak.
Injury report: Phoenix forward Martin Hanzal (lower body) is day-to-day. Smith (lower body) and defenseman David Schlemko (lower body) are out. … Blue Jackets defenseman Nikita Nikitin (lower body) is day-to-day. Forwards Nick Foligno (lower body) and RJ Umberger (upper body) are out.
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