Published January 13, 2015
The Columbus Blue Jackets will try to extend their longest points streak in franchise history on Saturday evening when they play host to the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Blue Jackets are 5-0-4 in their last nine games, posting five victories in a row in between sets of back-to-back losses after regulation. Columbus had its winning streak halted with a shootout loss to Vancouver on Tuesday to begin a five-game homestand, then dropped another 2-1 shootout on Thursday, this time to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Jack Johnson scored the goal for the Blue Jackets and Sergei Bobrovsky matched a season high with 39 saves, but was beaten twice in the breakaway frame while all three Columbus skaters failed to convert.
The Blue Jackets broke their previous club-record points streak of eight straight games from Jan. 16-Feb. 6, 2001, though a loss is still a loss and Columbus remains two games under .500 at 10-12-6.
"I think it's more disappointing than anything else," Columbus head coach Todd Richards said of the narrow defeat. "Our goaltender played so well tonight."
Bobrovsky's strong play isn't just isolated to Thursday night. He has appeared in eight of the nine games over the current points streak and has not allowed more than two goals in seven straight games.
And though Richards would have liked to get a win last time out, he can't say his club isn't earning its points. Columbus has played in three straight shootouts and eight of their last nine games have gone beyond regulation.
That has helped the Blue Jackets pull within four points of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, while the Coyotes are ninth but just a point back of three times tied for sixth in the West.
Phoenix arrives in Columbus having lost five of its past six on the road, including back-to-back shutout defeats. The Coyotes were blanked 2-0 in Anaheim on March 6 and following three straight at home, were downed 3-0 in St. Louis on Thursday to kick off a four-game road trip.
Mike Smith made 27 saves versus the Blues as Phoenix had a two-game winning streak end.
"We've got to have some players that compete a lot harder on the road and dig in on the road," said Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett. "Tonight we just had too many passengers and that's not a good recipe for success on a hard road trip."
The final two games of the Coyotes' swing will both be against the Los Angeles Kings on back-to-back nights beginning on Monday.
Though the Coyotes have won three straight versus the Blue Jackets, including the first two of three meetings this season, all of those encounters took place in Phoenix and they have lost three straight in Columbus.
Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson will play on Saturday one day after inking a six-year contract extension. He leads all Phoenix blueliners with 17 points in 27 games and is averaging just over 25 minutes of ice time per game.
The 21-year-old, the sixth overall pick of the 2009 draft, set career highs last season with 13 goals, 19 assists, 32 points and 82 games played.
The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, are likely to have defenseman John Moore back in action after activating him from injured reserve on Friday. Moore has missed the past eight games due to a shoulder injury.