After two losses that could be politely described as "rough", the Jackets needed a boost, and they received it with the news that Dalton Prout, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Nathan Horton would be activated off the IR.

For Nathan Horton, this game had been a long time in coming, and there was no hiding the enthusiasm on his face. Every time the camera focused on him, he seemed to be grinning, laughing, and visibly relieved to finally be playing hockey once again.

The Coyotes, like the Jackets, had been in a rough patch of late, losing three of their last four games, missing captain Shane Doan due to illness, and their penalty kill sitting at the bottom of the NHL. One team had to win tonight, but neither one wished to take undue risks to get there.

With each club playing a more defensive style, the opening minutes were spent looking for opportunities. Each team had a few quick opportunities, but Curtis McElhinney and Mike Smith were ready for them.

The physical play started heavy and got nasty near the midway point of the first, when Derek MacKenzie rocked Oliver Ekman-Larsson with a hard check that sent him to the ice. D-Mac would be challenged immediately by Keith Yandle, and after the dust from the fisticuffs cleared, OEL was taken to the dressing room and would not return to the game.

There were a few minutes of deja vu as the Jackets gave up several penalties in the early going, but C-Mac was much improved tonight, and the PK responded with a strong effort, including a couple of great shorthanded opportunities, but the game would go to the first intermission with no score.

The Horton / Anisimov / Dubinsky line went out with a will in the second period, and set a pace that the entire team followed, pressuring the Coyotes and racking up several excellent early chances, but the game would still be scoreless until late in the period, when Mike Smith was called for playing the puck outside of the trapezoid.

Horton set up in front of the net, creating space inside the Phoenix PK, and would be rewarded when James Wisnewski fired in a shot that rebounded off Smith's pads, where #8 was waiting to scoop it up and redirect it into the net for his first goal as a Blue Jacket, and his 199th career NHL goal.

The lead held through the second intermission, but the Coyotes would push hard in the third period, dominating the possession and forcing McElhinney to stay sharp for extended stretches before the team finally caught a break.

David Rundblad would be called for sending the puck over the ice, and the Jackets set up for another power play opportunity.