Blue Jackets, Coyotes battle for two key points

By The Sports NetworkApril 8, 2014 at 11:03 AM
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( - A pair of teams fighting for playoff spots in opposing conferences meet in Ohio on Tuesday when the Columbus Blue Jackets welcome the Phoenix Coyotes to Nationwide Arena.

Of the two teams, only Columbus is currently in postseason position as it holds the second of the Eastern Conference's two wild card spots with 87 points through 78 games. That leaves the Blue Jackets three ahead of New Jersey and Toronto with a game in hand over both teams. The Maple Leafs visit Tampa Bay on Tuesday, while the Devils are idle.

Columbus also is only two points behind Philadelphia for the third of the Metropolitan Division's three automatic bids to the playoffs. The Flyers, who also have four games left, are visiting the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.

Phoenix, meanwhile, is one point in back of Dallas for the West's second wild card spot with four games left for both teams. The Stars also play Tuesday against the visiting Nashville Predators, who are six points behind Dallas and still technically in playoff contention.

The Blue Jackets picked up a valuable two points in their last trip to the ice, while Phoenix is currently mired in a costly four-game losing streak.

Columbus, which is hosting its final game of the regular season tonight, used a potent power play on Sunday to bounce back from a deflating loss in its previous outing.

The Blue Jackets converted on 3-of-6 opportunities with the man advantage in a 4-0 home win over the New York Islanders, two days after losing Friday's 4-3 regulation decision against visiting Chicago. Columbus failed to gain a point on Friday after the Blackhawks scored the winning goal in the waning seconds of regulation.

Boone Jenner, Jack Johnson and Ryan Murray each record power-play goals on Sunday, while Mark Letestu added an even strength tally. Sergei Bobrovsky made 31 saves in his career-high 29th win of the season.

"This is a huge win," Columbus forward Matt Calvert said. "We needed these two points badly. Our power play came up big and (Bobrovsky) was great."

The Blue Jackets are 21-15-4 as the home team this season and had lost three straight (0-2-1) at Nationwide Arena before Sunday's victory. Columbus will visit Dallas, Tampa Bay and Florida to complete its regular-season slate.

The Coyotes fell to 0-2-2 over their last four outings with Friday's 3-2 shootout loss against visiting Edmonton. Phoenix carried a 2-1 lead into the closing minutes of regulation before allowing Sam Gagner to tie it up with 40.4 seconds left in the third.

Gagner later scored the only goal of the shootout to lift the Oilers to the win.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson picked up a goal and one assist and Kyle Chipchura also tallied for the Coyotes, while Thomas Greiss made 24 saves in the loss.

"We let a point slip away," said Chipchura. "I thought we came out a little flat."

Phoenix begins a two-game road trip tonight and also will visit Nashville on Thursday before capping the regular season this weekend on a two-game homestand. The Coyotes welcome San Jose on Saturday before hosting Dallas the following night in a potentially crucial game for the West's second wild card spot.

The Coyotes are 21-13-5 at home this season and 15-15-9 as the guest.

Columbus notched a 2-0 win at Phoenix on Jan. 2, giving the Blue Jackets two straight wins in this series following a three-game slide versus the Coyotes. Phoenix has lost four in a row in Columbus, where it hasn't won since a 4-3 regulation victory on Jan. 11, 2011.


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