By Dave Vest
GLENDALE – The Coyotes will return to Jobing.com Arena tonight seeking their seventh consecutive home victory. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix last won seven straight home games in the 2001-02 season, the last season they qualified for the NHL playoffs.
Ilya Bryzgalov is expected to start in goal for the Coyotes (21-13-2). Bryzgalov has won his past seven starts at home and has posted a 1.29 goals-against average in those games.
The Coyotes have six games left in December. Five of those games will be played at Jobing.com Arena, which is good news for a team with a 12-5-0 record on home ice.
Columbus (14-15-7), which has lost six straight games and is 2-9-5 in its past 16 games, leads the NHL in power-play efficiency at 23.6 percent.
Blue Jackets backup goalie Mathieu Garon is expected to start after relieving starter Steve Mason in Saturday's loss to Colorado. Head Coach Ken Hitchcock benched Mason less than five minutes into that 5-2 loss after he allowed three goals on seven shots.
The Coyotes beat Garon in a shootout last week. Garon, however, stopped all 36 shots he faced in a 2-0 victory at Jobing.com Arena on Oct. 10 to spoil Phoenix's home opener.
Coyotes right wing Radim Vrbata is averaging a point per game over the past six games. Vrbata leads the team with 11 goals and co-leads with 20 points.
Blue Jackets left wing RJ Umberger, the 16th overall pick of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, has notched three goals and an assist in his past five games.
The Coyotes may have to play minus center Vernon Fiddler, who suffered a lower-body injury early in Saturday's loss at Anaheim. Fiddler, who has a plus-9 rating and has won 54.3 percent of his faceoffs, skated briefly on Monday morning and is listed as day-to-day.
The Coyotes are struggling to score power-play goals. In their past 11 games, Phoenix has netted just three in their past 39 chances.
Defenseman Anders Eriksson will make his debut with the Coyotes tonight (see PODCASTS below). Eriksson, 34, has played 552 NHL games since the Detroit Red Wings selected him with the 22nd overall pick of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft.
Listen to new defenseman Anders Eriksson talk about making his debut with the Coyotes tonight and about his nickname.