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Coyotes-Blue Jackets Preview

AP - Sports

The Phoenix Coyotes have picked up points in their last four games, but they've only earned the maximum once.

A meeting with the Columbus Blue Jackets might be just what they need to secure two points.

The Coyotes try to bounce back from another tough loss and continue their dominance over the Blue Jackets on Friday night.

Phoenix (20-17-7) is concluding a three-game road trip after losing 2-1 to the New York Rangers in a shootout Tuesday and dropping a shootout to Detroit 3-2 on Thursday. The Coyotes, who beat the New York Islanders 5-1 and lost 1-0 to Los Angeles in overtime prior to this trip, are 2-4-4 in their last 10.

Radim Vrbata scored his team-leading 21st goal Thursday and Taylor Pyatt scored for the second time in three games as Phoenix wasted another strong performance by Mike Smith, who stopped 40 shots.

"Smith was great, he gave us a chance to win," coach Dave Tippett said. "We gave ourselves a chance to win the game. Unfortunately, the shootout got us again."

Smith has started the last five games, going 1-1-3 despite a 1.55 goals-against average. He is 2-2-1 with a 2.37 GAA in five career starts against the Blue Jackets, never facing them with Phoenix.

No Western Conference team has brought out the best in the Coyotes over the past few seasons as the Blue Jackets.

Since the start of the 2008-09 season, Phoenix is 10-2-0 against the Blue Jackets - its best record versus any West opponent. The Coyotes have outscored Columbus 38-21 in those games with Shane Doan leading the way with four goals and eight assists.

Phoenix took three of four in last season's series as Vrbata had two goals and an assist.

The Coyotes did lose their last trip to Columbus, 5-3 on Feb. 25 to snap a six-game winning streak there.

The good news for Phoenix is the Blue Jackets don't have much of a home-ice advantage this season. They actually don't have much success regardless of the venue.

Columbus (11-26-5) has the fewest points in the NHL, is 1-5-2 in its last eight games at Nationwide Arena and is off to its worst start since entering the league in 2000-01. Those woes led to Monday's firing of coach Scott Arniel, who was replaced on an interim basis by Todd Richards, an assistant with the Blue Jackets since the start of the season.

The Blue Jackets lost 5-2 to Chicago on Tuesday in Richards' debut, dropping their second straight and falling to 2-9-1 in their last 12.

"It's going to be a challenge," said Richards, who went 77-71-16 as coach of Minnesota from 2009-11. "It's not me, it's everyone. It's the other coaches in the room and the players. ... We're all in this together. There's work ahead of us."

R.J. Umberger and Antoine Vermette had goals Tuesday for Columbus, which is again expected to be without center Jeff Carter and defenseman James Wisniewski for the opener of a four-game homestand.

It is uncertain who Richards will start in net, as the Blue Jackets' goaltenders have struggled lately.

Curtis Sanford has started three of the last four games and is 1-6-1 with a 3.26 GAA and a shutout in his last nine appearances.

Steve Mason, who hasn't played since surrendering four goals on 16 shots in one period of work against Anaheim on Sunday, is 1-4-1 with a 3.46 GAA in his last seven starts.

Mason is 1-4-0 with a 3.25 GAA lifetime against the Coyotes, while Sanford is 1-3-0 with a 3.28 GAA in four career starts.

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