Regaining power play prowess key for Blue Jackets

BY foxsports • February 3, 2015

With Glendale no longer overrun by Super Bowl festivities, the Arizona Coyotes are primed to wrap up the longest road trip in franchise history before playing at home for the first time in nearly three weeks.

The Coyotes make one last stop to face the Columbus Blue Jackets in the teams' second meeting this season Tuesday night.

Arizona (18-26-6) entered its eight-game trip Jan. 17 having lost three straight and proceeded to drop its next four, giving it a season-high seven consecutive losses.

The Coyotes, though, have managed to win two of the next three and look to close the trip on a much more positive note before hosting Carolina on Thursday.

They beat Montreal 3-2 on Sunday, with Louis Domingue earning the win in his first career start and second appearance, making 20 saves. The 22-year-old was recalled Saturday and with Mike Smith struggling through the worst season of his career, hopes to compete for the No. 1 job.

"I'm just trying to prove that I belong here, that I'm an NHL goalie and I can take over the job," Domingue said. "We have a job at stake, so I'm trying to grab the opportunity and make the most of it."

Smith's 3.49 goals-against average is the worst in the NHL among goaltenders with at least 20 appearances. He's lost seven of his last eight starts and was pulled in favor of Domingue in the third period of Saturday's 7-2 defeat to Ottawa.

Arizona ranks near the bottom of the league in non-shootout goals allowed per game (3.32) and goals scored per game (2.26).

Those struggles weren't apparent in the teams' first meeting, though, as Sam Gagner had two goals and Martin Hanzal added four points in Arizona's 6-3 win over the Blue Jackets (21-24-3) on Jan. 3.

Columbus has had better luck at home, where it's won the past four meetings with the Coyotes.

The Blue Jackets enter this matchup following a winless two-game Florida trip, falling 3-2 to the Panthers on Thursday and 3-1 to Tampa Bay on Saturday. Ryan Johansen scored his 19th goal but Curtis McElhinney surrendered three goals for the third consecutive game.

"I thought our compete was there," coach Todd Richards said. "Gave them two goals, though. You can't give good teams goals. They're a good enough team to earn them on their own, but we had two opportunities with pucks on our stick and we turned it over and the puck's in the back of our net."

Columbus ranks among the league leaders at 22.8 percent on the power play, but it's gone 0 for 14 over the past four games.

Arizona is among the worst penalty killing teams in the NHL at 77.1, but it hasn't allowed a power-play goal in 10 opportunities over the last three contests and just two in 25 over the last eight.

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