Coyotes-Blue Jackets Preview

The turn of the calendar to March hasn’t been kind to the

Phoenix Coyotes.

The visiting Coyotes will try to avoid a four-game slide Tuesday

night as well as a third defeat to the lowly Columbus Blue

Jackets.

Phoenix (33-24-9) went 11-0-1 in February to gain the Pacific

Division lead but has dropped all three games in March. The Coyotes

are still tied with Dallas for first place, with San Jose two

points back and Los Angeles three.

Captain Shane Doan felt his club’s effort in Monday’s 2-1 defeat

at Pittsburgh was better than it was in home losses last week to

Calgary and Columbus (20-38-7). The Coyotes outshot the Penguins

25-17 over the final two periods.

“The last two games we weren’t very happy, and tonight we played

closer to where we need to and if we play like that, we like our

chances,” Doan said. “We just got to find ways to bury the

puck.”

Phoenix has lost both times it has faced Columbus, which is

seeking its first three-game win streak since Feb. 18-25, 2011. The

Blue Jackets have not played since Saturday’s 5-2 road win over the

Coyotes, outscoring them 3-0 in the third period.

“They’re a team that’s in the race that wants to make the

playoffs,” Columbus captain Rick Nash said. “It’s tough when you

play teams back to back, they’re going to be coming out full steam

and it should be another fun game.”

Nash, who had requested a trade from the league’s worst team,

has three goals and one assist in the season series after a

spectacular performance in Arizona on Saturday. He had a

short-handed goal, one at even strength and an assist on Derick

Brassard’s goal.

“He’s our captain, he’s our best player,” Brassard said.

“Hopefully he’s going to stick around us next year. I don’t know

what’s going to happen but from what I see right now he’s just a

guy who wants to play and show us the way.”

The Coyotes fell behind after one period in that contest and

have conceded the first goal in six of their last seven games.

“We’ve been chasing the game it seems every single night from

the last four or five,” Doan said. “The last three cost us.”

Mike Smith lost his third straight start Monday after winning

his previous 11. He’s surrendered 11 goals in dropping three in a

row to Columbus while backup Jason LaBarbera has a career 1.70

goals-against average versus the Blue Jackets.

Steve Mason has won consecutive games for the first time this

season after his 30-save effort Saturday. He has earned victories

in his last two starts against the Coyotes after dropping his first

four.

Former Blue Jackets winger Ray Whitney scored for the fourth

time in five games Monday and continues to lead the Coyotes with 60

points. Antoine Vermette has no points in his first six games with

Phoenix ahead of his return to Nationwide Arena for the first time

since being acquired from Columbus on Feb. 22.