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Ilya Bryzgalov makes 31 saves in Coyotes' 2-0 win over Jackets

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Ilya Bryzgalov could be ready to join the NHL's elite goaltenders.

That was the assessment of his coach Wayne Gretzky after Bryzgalov stopped 31 shots for his first shutout of the season in the Phoenix Coyotes' 2-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-0 Saturday night.

Bryzgalov recorded his sixth NHL shutout and the first since March 13 when he blanked Vancouver 2-0 at home.

"He has the ability to be a special player, and no question, he was the difference in this hockey game," Gretzky said. "He seems to be seeing the puck very well, and this is as solid as I've seen him play."

Last season, Bryzgalov recorded three shutouts for the Coyotes after his acquisition from Anaheim on Nov. 17, 2007. He entered the Columbus game with a mark of 11-11-3, and a 2.81 goals-against average.

"I feel pretty good physically," he said. "The most important thing is that I helped the team. They have trust in me, and we have a pretty good chemistry."

Steven Reinprecht scored in the second period and rookie Mikkel Boedker added one in the third for the Coyotes, who won for the fourth time in six games. The Blue Jackets have dropped three of four.

Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock refused to meet with reporters after the game, but captain Rick Nash said Columbus didn't put enough pressure on Bryzgalov.

"I don't think we tested him very much," Nash said. "I can't remember a beautiful save he made. He was just consistent, and I don't think we were good enough."

The game was scoreless until midway through the second period when Reinprecht gave Phoenix a 1-0 lead. When goalie Steve Mason dropped Ken Klee's shot in the slot, Reinprecht converted the rebound at 10:23 for his eighth goal.

Jiri Novotny had Columbus' two best opportunities when he was stopped in close. In the final minute of the period, Bryzgalov made a strong glove save on Fredrik Modin's shot from the bottom of the left circle.

Through their current tough period, the Blue Jackets have been faulted for lack of a consistent effort.

"We're professionals and have to do better for 60 minutes," defenceman Kris Russell said. "We have to outwork goalies and we didn't do that. We all have to be accountable."

In the second period, Columbus' best chance came in the final minute. Bryzgalov caught Manny Malhotra's shot between his pads and fell to the ice.

Boedker scored his seventh when he put in a backhander at 6:52 of the third period.

Boedker said he wasn't supposed to be in the game.

"(Enver Lisin) should have been on the ice," Boedker said. "He was getting his skate repaired, so I took the chance and jumped on the ice. The puck was right there and I had a chance to put it in the net."

Notes: Blue Jackets rookie centre Derek Brassard, second on the team in scoring, is out indefinitely due to a separate shoulder sustained in a fight. He will have an MRI on Sunday to determine long-term damage. Four shots in the first period was not a Phoenix season low. Twice earlier this season, the Coyotes had three in one period. Boedker's goal was his second in 21 games. ... Nash has 12 goals and 11 assists in 22 career games against Phoenix.



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