Coyotes-Blue Jackets Preview

A rare display of offense helped the Phoenix Coyotes maintain

their current run of success. A visit to Columbus could provide

another opportunity for a productive night.

The Coyotes look for a fifth straight road win over the

struggling Blue Jackets on Thursday night.

Petr Prucha scored twice while Keith Yandle and Martin Hanzal

each had three assists in Phoenix’s 6-3 win at Toronto on Wednesday

to bounce back from a 3-2 loss at Detroit in the opener of a

four-game road trip two days earlier.

The Coyotes (20-12-2) scored their most goals since a 6-3

season-opening victory at Los Angeles. Though Phoenix is in the

midst of a 7-1-1 stretch, it had scored three or fewer goals in its

previous seven contests. The Coyotes rank near the bottom of the

league with 87 goals.

The team’s overall strong start, however, has been a pleasant

distraction for a franchise with an uncertain future.

“We really expected to win (this season),” said Coyotes captain

Shane Doan, who will play his 1,000th career game Thursday.

Facing Columbus seems to ignite a spark under the Coyotes, who

have won five of the last six meetings and outscored the Blue

Jackets 16-7 during a four-game road winning streak in the

series.

The Blue Jackets (14-14-6) will try to avoid a fifth consecutive

loss after losing 2-1 at Minnesota on Tuesday.

Hanzal had a goal and Yandle added three assists in the Coyotes’

4-1 win at Columbus on Oct. 28. Hanzal has five assists in his last

four games overall and three goals with five assists in nine career

contests versus the Blue Jackets.

Any problems Phoenix has had offensively have been move than

compensated for by stellar goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov. He

could be back in net after making 27 saves Wednesday to improve to

19-9-2 with a 2.02 goals-against average. He’s 5-4-0 with a 2.33

GAA versus the Blue Jackets.

Backup Jason LaBarbera is 1-3-0 with 2.66 GAA, but hasn’t played

since Nov. 16. He’s 3-3-0 with a 1.43 GAA against Columbus.

Rick Nash recorded his second goal and fourth point in four

games Tuesday for Columbus, which is 2-8-4 since a three-game

winning streak.

“We’re going through some tough times right now and it’s just a

matter of sticking together and getting through this,” Nash told

the Blue Jackets’ official Web site. “We have to be a desperate

team now.”

Nash had a goal and an assist in Columbus’ 2-0 win at Phoenix on

Oct. 10 – his only points in his last four games versus the

Coyotes.

Steve Mason made 21 saves against the Wild, but suffered his

third straight loss and fell to 10-11-5 with a 3.30 GAA this

season.

He’s 0-4-0 with a 3.31 GAA against the Coyotes and could give

way to backup Mathieu Garon, who stopped 36 shots against Phoenix

for his only shutout of the season in the teams’ first meeting.

Garon is 6-3-1 with a 2.11 GAA and three career shutouts versus

the Coyotes.