By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will wrap up a three-game trip tonight when they play the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. The puck drops at 5 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (20-17-7) will enter the game less than 24 hours after losing, 3-2 in a shootout, to the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.
"We need two points in the standings every game we have from now on," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "I thought we had a good effort out there (on Thursday) and it's a shame we didn't get the two points."
The Coyotes, who have notched at least one point in four straight games, have won six of the past seven games played against the Blue Jackets. Tonight's game is the first of four between the clubs this season.
leads the Coyotes with 21 goals. Only five other NHL players have scored more goals than Vrbata, who has eyes set on passing his career-high 27 goals in a season set in 2007-08.
The Coyotes will play the game with just six defensemen on the roster after assigning David Rundblad
to the American Hockey League on Friday morning. Rundblad played in just two games for the Coyotes after being acquired in a trade that sent center Kyle Turris to the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 17.
The Blue Jackets (11-26-5) have lost 10 of their past 12 games and are last in the NHL with just 27 points.
|Photo by Getty Images.
Tonight’s game will be the first for interim Head Coach Todd Richards on home ice. Columbus fired former head coach Scott Arniel on Monday and then lost, 5-2, at Chicago on Tuesday in Richards’ debut behind the bench.
"It's going to be a challenge," Richards told reporters after taking the job. "It's not me, it's everyone. It's the other coaches in the room and the players... We're all in this together. There's work ahead of us."
Left wing Vinny Prospal has a team-high 30 points for the Blue Jackets, who have lost four straight home games.
Left wing R.J. Umberger, who holds the franchise record of 288 consecutive games played, will miss his first game since the 2007-08 season tonight after suffering an upper-body injury at Anaheim on Jan. 8.