If the Phoenix Coyotes had played all season the way they played in their last game, they might not be facing such a tough battle to make the playoffs.
Phoenix looks to build on a big win when it takes on the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.
The Coyotes are 11 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and would have to climb over four teams to earn the berth. Phoenix didn’t appear discouraged by that on Tuesday night, however, defeating West-leading Detroit 5-2 at Joe Louis Arena.
Curtis Joseph made 35 saves and Mike Comrie scored twice for Phoenix, which had won only one of its previous six games. The Coyotes, though, rebounded nicely from being routed 7-3 by the Red Wings in the opener of the home-and-home series Saturday. Phoenix also defeated the Pacific Division-leading Dallas Stars last Thursday.
“If we play like this more often I really like our postseason chances,” Joseph said. “Every time people start to count us out, we rally and show what kind of team we can be. This win … two games after beating Dallas absolutely gives us a confidence boost coming down the stretch.”
Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky wasn’t nearly as optimistic as his goaltender.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” he said. “Let’s be honest. We know we’ve got an uphill battle but nobody’s going to quit.”
Gretzky’s team is 13-14-1 on the road, and the Coyotes will need to improve their play away from Glendale Arena immediately if they want to stay in the postseason race. Tuesday’s victory opened a stretch of seven of eight games on the road for the Coyotes, including a season-high five-game trip from March 12-21.
Phoenix visits a Blue Jackets club that lost for the third time in four games since the Olympic break Tuesday, 3-1 to Chicago. Columbus has only five goals during that span.
“We had tons of chances,” Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash said. “When you’re hot you’re hot, and when you’re not you’re not.”
Columbus broke a six-game winless streak against Phoenix in the teams’ last meeting Jan. 8.
The Blue Jackets traded defenseman Luke Richardson to Toronto for a conditional draft pick Wednesday, ending the veteran’s disappointing stint in Columbus. Richardson had one goal, six assists and 30 penalty minutes in 44 games this season.