Preview: Blue Jackets at Coyotes
The Arizona Coyotes have not lost back-to-back games since dropping their first two of the season and will try to keep that streak intact when they host the reeling Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night. Denied a third straight win after losing in overtime at Calgary on Tuesday, the Coyotes have earned points in 11 of 13 to vault up the Pacific Division standings.
Arizona appeared on its way to a two-game sweep of Alberta rivals Edmonton and Calgary before coughing up a two-goal lead in the the third period versus the Flames. “We still got a point so it’s not the end of the world,” forward Vinnie Hinostroza said. "It was nice to get one in, but to give up the two-goal lead in the third, obviously that’s not what we want.” The Blue Jackets are not getting what they want or need -- namely, a win -- as they enter the opener of a three-game road trip riding a five-game losing streak (0-4-1). "We're close, but that doesn't put you in the win column," coach John Tortorella said after Tuesday's 2-1 home loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, FS Ohio (Columbus), FS Arizona-Plus
ABOUT THE BLUE JACKETS (5-7-3): Columbus has scored only five times over the past four games but the lineup could get a boost with the expected return of 20-year-old Alexandre Texier, who was activated off injured reserve Wednesday after sitting out the past four contests (knee). Markus Nutivaara exited Tuesday's loss due to an upper-body injury, prompting the recall of fellow defenseman Adam Clendening from Cleveland of the American Hockey League. Pierre-Luc Dubois has a team-high 10 points, with five of his six goals coming in six road games.
ABOUT THE COYOTES (9-4-2): Darcy Kuemper sat out as backup Antti Raanta got the start in Calgary, but he will take a league-leading 1.69 goals-against average and NHL-best .940 save percentage into Thursday's matchup. Kuemper, who has permitted more than two goals only once in his last 17 starts dating to last season, is 1-2-1 with a 1.99 GAA in four starts against the Blue Jackets. Nick Schmaltz set up Arizona's first goal at Calgary to boost his team-leading totals to 14 points and 10 assists but he has only one assist in five games versus Columbus.
1. Columbus is 3-for-39 on the power play over the last 12 games.
2. Coyotes F Phil Kessel has three goals through 15 games but has 13 tallies and 27 points in 27 meetings versus Columbus.
3. The Blue Jackets assigned G Elvis Merzlikins to their AHL affiliate in Cleveland.
PREDICTION: Coyotes 3, Blue Jackets 2