Coyotes try to avoid another loss to Blue Jackets

The Phoenix Coyotes will try to avoid tying their longest losing streak of the season when they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets for tonight's battle at Nationwide Arena.

The Coyotes were the NHL's hottest team in February, posting an 11-0-1 record last month and closing it on a six-game winning streak. However, Phoenix has lost its first three games in March -- all in regulation -- and is in danger of tying its longest skid of the season, an 0-3-1 stretch from Dec. 23-29.

Phoenix's most recent setback came in Monday's 2-1 loss in Pittsburgh, as the Coyotes remained tied with Dallas for first place in the Pacific Division. The Stars are in action tonight, as are the San Jose Sharks, who are just two points behind the division leaders.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets, who are last in the NHL with 47 points, are playing their second straight game against the Coyotes after posting a 5-2 win in Phoenix on Saturday.

The Coyotes failed to bounce back from Saturday's loss when they visited the Steel City on Monday. Pittsburgh scored twice in the opening period and Marc- Andre Fleury stopped 36 shots to help the Penguins take the 2-1 decision at Consol Energy Center.

Ray Whitney scored the lone goal of the game for the Coyotes, while Mike Smith made 26 stops in the loss.

"In a tight game like that you have to make the big saves and tonight I didn't do that in the first period," said Smith. "We were chasing them the rest of the night."

Last night's game and this evening's test in Columbus completes a two-game swing for the Coyotes, who will return to the desert for a three-game homestand after tonight. Phoenix is 16-12-5 as the visiting team this season.

Rick Nash was the offensive star for Columbus against the Coyotes on Saturday, as he totaled two goals and one assist at Arena. Nash has 33 points (17 goals, 16 assists) in 32 career games against Phoenix.

Nikita Nikitin scored the go-ahead goal in the third period for the Blue Jackets, who have won two straight for the first time since February 3-7. Columbus hasn't won three straight since Feb. 18-25 of last season.

Derick Brassard and Colton Gillies also added scores on Sunday to back a 30- save performance by Steve Mason.

"I thought this was a big win for us, Mason gave us some big stops behind us and hopefully we can build this into a little roll," said Nash, who has four goals and an assist in his last four games.

Whitney and Lauri Korpikoski lit the lamp for the Coyotes, while Smith took the loss after allowing four goals on 25 shots.

Beginning with tonight's tilt, the Blue Jackets are playing two straight and three of their next four at home. Columbus is just 11-18-3 as the host this season.

The Blue Jackets have taken two in a row and three of four against Phoenix overall and the Coyotes have dropped two straight in Columbus.