By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will try to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race tonight when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets at Jobing.com Arena in the team's regular-season home finale. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (39-27-13) will enter the game in seventh place in the conference standings, two points behind Los Angeles, which leads the Pacific Division.
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The Coyotes, who have lost all three games vs. Columbus this season, will enter the game with a two-game winning streak during which they've outscored opponents 6-0.
"We want to be playing past this week, and to do that we have to continue to play better each game," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "We got results the last couple games, but there's parts of our game that can certainly improve."
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Coyotes goalie Mike Smith
, who on Monday was named the NHL’s No. 3 Star of the Week, will enter the game with a shutout streak of 159 minutes and 59 seconds.
“I’ve always been a guy that wants to play a lot of games and this year I’m getting the opportunity to do that,” Smith said. “It feels good to be doing well.”
Offensively, Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson
has notched five goals in his last 10 games, and forward Radim Vrbata
has scored three times in his last two games.
Coyotes forward Taylor Pyatt
, who has missed the past six games because of an upper-body injury, will return to the lineup tonight.
"I feel like I still have a lot to prove and a lot to give to the guys in this locker room," said Pyatt, who has notched just 16 points in 70 games this season.
|Photo by Getty Images.
Columbus (27-45-7) will enter the game a non-playoff-bound yet confident team thanks to a three-game winning streak against playoff contenders Detroit, Florida and St. Louis.
Rookie goalie Allen York has started all three games of the winning streak and has stopped 114 of the last 120 shots he’s faced over the last four games, posting a 1.56 goals-against average and .950 save percentage during that stretch.
"It's huge for our confidence," York told reporters after the team’s latest win, a 5-2 thumping of the Blues in St. Louis. "We showed that we're not the team that everyone thinks we are. We're a very dangerous team."
Captain Rick Nash, who has a five-game point streak (two goals and six assists), has notched three goals in the first three games vs. Phoenix this season.