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Coyotes’ loss to Blue Jackets extends skid to 5 amid playoff race

Arizona Coyotes right wing Richard Panik (14) checks Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski away from the puck in the second period during an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet gave warning last week about the situation his team was in at the time, coming out of the All-Star break two points back of a playoff spot.

“You could have two bad weeks and you could be out of it,” Tocchet said.

Since he said that, the Coyotes have gone 0-3-1. That’s not enough to warrant a hard mashing of the panic button. But it’s less than ideal, and Arizona’s loss at home Thursday night to the Columbus Blue Jackets was another missed shot at two points.

The Los Angeles Kings beat the Flyers on Thursday night, putting them five points back of St. Louis for a second wild card spot. The Kings are in last place in the Western Conference, meaning that every team is within five points of that playoff spot. The Coyotes are just one of those seven teams.

Arizona’s loss on Thursday means that the Coyotes haven’t won a game since Jan. 22, a five-game losing streak.

“We have 29 games left and we need every point we can get,” defenseman Jordan Oesterle said. “We aren’t in a position to be losing points like we have been the last five. So, yeah, it’s a big sense of urgency right now.”

The Chicago Blackhawks leapfrogged Arizona in the standings with their win over Vancouver on Thursday, meaning that four teams sit between the Coyotes and the last Western Conference playoff spot.

The Coyotes not only must overcome a few points of deficit in the standings — they must make up more ground than at least five teams (the number of teams who currently have as many or more points than they do). It doesn’t help matters that Arizona’s roster has been riddled by injuries to key players.

“There’s a lot of teams in the west fighting for a spot, so there’s a lot of teams playing with some urgency here, and we’re one of them,” forward Conor Garland said.

Since the end of the 2018 calendar year, the Coyotes are 6-6-3. Their post-New Years run last season is well-documented: The team went 20-13-7. Now would be a great time to start another run like that.

“You come back tomorrow and you practice hard again,” Tocchet said when asked how the team can mitigate feeling the pressure of a playoff race. “We have to do that. That’s kind of been our go-to thing. What-ifs, a lot of what-ifs the last bunch of games. But tomorrow’s another day and we’ve got to try to figure a way to get some wins here.”

Arizona’s game on Thursday didn’t go well.

Columbus got the first goal as Lukas Sedlak made it 1-0 in the first period. David Savard added another in the frame to make it 2-0 by first intermission. The second period saw Arizona score two unanswered tallies to tie the game at 2 apiece — courtesy of Oesterle and Garland — but the Blue Jackets would eventually respond with a goal in the second and another in the third period.

The Blue Jackets won 4-2 and outshot the Coyotes 33-31. Darcy Kuemper made 29 saves.

“When there’s times where we could’ve made that play to win, the other team’s making that play to win,” Tocchet said.

LOOSE PUCKS

–Defenseman Kyle Capobianco, playing in his third NHL game, took a hit behind the Coyotes net and went down. He was helped off by a member of the team’s training staff. Tocchet didn’t immediately have an update.

“Didn’t look good,” Tocchet said. “We haven’t been getting any good news lately, so hopefully it’s good news.”

–Arizona’s power play went 0-for-2 on Thursday, marking 15 power plays in a row that the Coyotes have not scored. The Coyotes haven’t scored a power play goal since Jan. 23 at Montreal.

–Garland scored his 11th goal of the season, tying the team lead with Brad Richardson, Derek Stepan, Clayton Keller and Christian Fischer. He has played only 27 games — about half of what some of those others have played.

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