By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will play the third game of a critical six-game homestand tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (40-24-11), which has gone 7-1-1 in its past nine games, will enter the game in fourth place in the Western Conference standings, just three points behind the Pacific Division-leading San Jose and three points ahead of fifth-place Chicago.
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to see the conference standings.
The Coyotes will be looking to build on a 2-1 victory over St. Louis on Tuesday, in which they rallied from a 1-0 deficit to earn two more critical points.
will start in goal for Phoenix, which has posted a 2-1-0 record vs. Columbus this season. Bryzgalov, who moved into second place on the franchise's all-time wins list (127) on Tuesday with his win over the Blues, is the first Coyotes goalie to post consecutive 30-win seasons since Nikolai Khabibulin (1996-99). Bryzgalov has a 6-2-0 record with a 2.01 goals-against average in his last eight starts against the Blue Jackets, including the first three games played against them this season.
Tonight's game will be the first between the Coyotes and Blue Jackets since the teams made the trade that brought defenseman Rostisalv Klesla to Phoenix in exchange for forward Scottie Upshall and defenseman Sami Lepisto.
“I’m sure it will be kind of weird to play against my old friends,” Klesla said after Wednesday’s practice. “…It should be interesting. I’m just hoping that we’re going to get the win.”
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to listen to Klesla talk about playing the Blue Jackets, the team that drafted him fourth overall in 2000.
The Coyotes again will play minus center Martin Hanzal
(lower-body injury) and defenseman Ed Jovanovski
|Photo by Getty Images.
Columbus (33-29-11) will enter the game in 12th place in the Western Conference standings, 10 points behind eighth-place Anaheim.
The Blue Jackets already have set a franchise mark for road victories this season with 17. However, they are just 2-2-3 in seven games played away from Columbus in March. Most recently, the Blue Jackets lost a 5-4 shootout to Colorado on Tuesday in Denver. It was a frustrating defeat considering Columbus let a 3-1 lead slip away in the final 13 minutes.
Columbus scored a season-high three power-play goals in last month's win over Phoenix, but is 0 for 23 on the power play in its past seven games.
Captain Rick Nash leads the Blue Jackets and ranks 16th in the NHL with 66 points. He also leads the team and is 10th in the League with 32 goals.
"They are a dangerous team," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "It's the combination of desperately still seeking the playoffs and the players trying to get recognized this year."