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Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 1:49 AM
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Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Phoenix Coyotes

The Skinny
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By Dave Vest
GLENDALE – The Coyotes will try to begin a new winning streak tonight when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets at Arena. The puck drops at 6 p.m. (Arizona time).

Phoenix (33-22-9) will enter the game in first place in the Pacific Division standings, two points ahead of second-place San Jose, which hosts St. Louis tonight.

The Coyotes posted an 11-0-1 record in February but began March with a 4-2 home loss to Calgary on Thursday night.

Head Coach Dave Tippett said his team can’t afford to let that loss trigger a funk.

“We've got a team coming in Columbus that beat Colorado (on Thursday) and that is playing free and easy, and if you're not willing to compete against them, you're going to be on the back side of it," Tippett said.

Tonight’s game vs. Columbus is the second of four between the teams this season. Columbus won the first game, 4-3, at Nationwide Arena on Jan. 13.

Phoenix will enter the game ranked last in the NHL in power-play efficiency at 13.3 percent.

"It's an area that's been a concern all year," Tippett said. "We've tried different people, different looks, and we'll continue to pound away until we can find some solutions with it."

Mike Smith, whom the NHL named its No. 1 Star for February, is expected to be back in goal. Click here to watch an exclusive interview with Smtih recorded after Friday's practice.

Center Antoine Vermette, whom Phoenix acquired from the Blue Jackets on Feb. 22 in exchange for goaltender Curtis McElhinney and two draft picks, will play his first game against his former teammates, still looking for his first point with the Coyotes (see PODCASTS below).

Gilbert Brule. Photo by Norm Hall.
Center Gilbert Brule, who has missed the past four games because of an upper-body injury, will be a game-time decision for this matchup with the Blue Jackets, the club that selected Brule with the sixth overall pick of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Brule notched three goals and four assists in 17 games before suffering the injury in the game played Feb. 21. Vs. Los Angeles.

Columbus (19-38-7), which will enter the game with the fewest points (45) of any team in the NHL, is 3-1-1 in its last five road games after going 0-6-1 their previous seven road games.

"Seeing other teams smiling, seeing other teams in pretty good playoff position, makes me mad," forward Derek MacKenzie told the Columbus Dispatch. "It makes you feel like what you've done here isn't good enough. We know that April 7 is going to be our last day and that's a crappy feeling. But if we can channel that into something positive, that is going to be our biggest asset."

The Blue Jackets last played on Thursday when they blanked the Colorado Avalanche, 2-0, at the Pepsi Center. Goalie Stave Mason made 33 saves in that game for his first shutout of the season. Mason, who is expected to start again tonight, has posted a 1.25 goals-against average and .965 save percentage in his last four wins.

Defenseman Jack Johnson has yet to notch a point and is minus-4 in his first three games since being traded to the Blue Jackets from Los Angeles for center Jeff Carter on Feb. 23.

Who's Hot
Coyotes center Martin Hanzal has notched six assists in the past five games and has won 28 of 40 faceoffs (70 percent) in the past two games.
Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash has notched four goals and one assist in the past six games, and leads the team with 22 goals and 44 points.
Did You Know?
  • The Coyotes recalled defenseman David Rundblad from the American Hockey League on Saturday, and Head Coach Dave Tippett said "there's a good chance" he will play tonight. Click here to read more.

  • Five players on the Coyotes current roster once played for Columbus: Gilbert Brule (injured), Rostislav Klesla (injured), Raffi Torres, Antoine Vermette and Ray Whitney.

  • Tonight's game will be broadcast on FOX Sports Arizona and on XTRA Sports 910 AM at 6 p.m. For in-game updates via Twitter, follow @coyotesgameday.

  Jared Boll
  Kristian Huselius
  Radek Martinek
  Marc Methot
  Gilbert Brule
  Kyle Chipchura
  Rostislav Klesla
  David Schlemko

2011-2012 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Apr 03 '12 CBJ 0 at PHX 2 B. Gordon
Mar 06 '12 PHX 2 at CBJ 3 D. MacKenzie
Mar 03 '12 CBJ 5 at PHX 2 N. Nikitin
Jan 13 '12 PHX 3 at CBJ 4 D. Brassard
R. Nash65242347-213451
V. Prospal65113041-171830
D. Brassard57121830-193042
A. Vermette6081927-171223
R. Umberger60101626-91931
F. Tyutin6552126-214710
J. Carter39151025-111481
J. Johnson6581725-142954
N. Nikitin4441822-101422
J. Wisniewski3841822-222911
R. Johansen519817-12233
D. Dorsett6310515-618311
G. Clitsome5141014-62411
D. MacKenzie656713+34011
M. Letestu455813-17240
A. Johnson3931013-41810
S. Pahlsson612911-62200
D. Savard26279-21610
J. Moore54257-17600
M. Methot46167-112400
C. Gillies58246-92700
K. Russell12213-11300
M. Calvert13033-51600
R. Russell24202-5000
J. Boll40112-79100
D. Boyce20112-51601
C. Atkinson10112-7400
T. Kubalik8112-3600
B. Lebda13101-4600
A. Giroux9101-2800
M. Mayorov8101-2200
R. Martinek7101-3000
C. Bass14011+03200
D. Byers5000+02400
K. Huselius2000-2200
A. Joudrey1000+0000
S. Mason3610-22-311310353.34.891
C. Sanford3110-15-4788752.66.911
A. York50-1-08573.78.860
R. Whitney65203959+232461
R. Vrbata65302454+2122710
S. Doan65202040-93755
K. Yandle6582937+23802
L. Korpikoski65141731+61203
M. Hanzal5182230+134332
A. Vermette6581927-191423
O. Ekman-Larsson6581624-12611
D. Langkow5681422-91411
B. Gordon5871320+111001
M. Boedker6581018-21201
R. Torres6210717-64810
K. Chipchura4721315+54000
T. Pyatt627714-51400
R. Klesla512911+92500
D. Schlemko4111011+71000
D. Morris48189-102600
A. Aucoin55268+133610
M. Rozsival37178+31800
G. Brule18347+1210
D. Rundblad27167-12600
C. O'Reilly27246-7410
P. O'Sullivan23224-4200
C. Summers19033-31100
M. Pouliot9022-3200
P. Bissonnette23101-33101
P. Nokelainen5011-1000
A. Miele7000-3600
M. Stone6000+1000
K. Turris6000-2400
M. Watkins1000-1000
M. Smith5229-16-711615562.29.925
J. LaBarbera163-7-2364082.59.912
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