By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will play the fourth game of a five-game trip against the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at the Nationwide Arena. The puck drops at 5 p.m. (Arizona time).
|Photo by Getty Images.
Phoenix (33-20-9) will enter the game in second place in the Pacific Division standings, one point behind first-place San Jose, which plays at Calgary on Friday.
The Coyotes won the first two games of the trip at Nashville and Philadelphia, but then lost the third game, 8-3, at Tampa Bay on Wednesday.
"We go back to the Western Conference games now," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "They're going to be tight games. We need to get back to playing the way we can and make sure that we take care of our spot in the standings."
► EDITOR'S NOTE:
to listen to Tippett's remarks after Friday's morning skate.
will be back in goal vs. Columbus after not playing against the Lightning. Bryzgalov has won a career-high eight straight games, surpassing the previous career-high he set last season. In the past eight games, Bryzgalov has stopped 227 of 240 shots.
The Coyotes again will play without winger Scottie Upshall
, who will serve the second game of a two-game suspension for a hit he delivered to Philadelphia defenseman Oskars Bartulis on Tuesday. Meanwhile, winger Ray Whitney
, who ranks second on the team with 45 points, will miss a third consecutive game because of a lower-body injury.
Phoenix will enter the game ranked seventh in the NHL in faceoff percentage (51.5). Columbus is close behind in eighth place (51.3).
The Blue Jackets (30-23-6) are on a hot streak having won four of their past five games. As a result, Columbus is just four points behind eighth-place Dallas in the Western Conference standings.
On Tuesday, goalie Steve Mason made 20 saves for his 18th NHL shutout and Rick Nash scored two third-period goals to key a 4-0 win over Nashville.
Mason has won his past three starts and stopped 86 of 90 shots in those games. Per usual, Nash is leading the offense with 29 goals and 55 points, which rank seventh and 19th in the NHL, respectively.
The Blue Jackets have won exactly half of their 30 homes games this season. Only Nashville (14), Colorado (14) and Edmonton (10) have fewer home victories among Western Conference teams.