No airing of the grievances here, as we're just excited for tonight...
Tonight's game in Glendale features the surprising St. Louis Blues coming to town to face the Phoenix Coyotes. Before the game, former Coyotes and Blues captain Keith Tkachuk will have his number 7 raised into the ring of honor and retired for future use, a privilege that Walt more than earned in his time here, as Carl noted the other day. As with past number retirements and special ceremonies, I expect the Coyotes to do a great job and it's worth your time to get there early for the whole thing. Also, first 10,000 fans get a Coyotes Santa hat, so I don't know what you're waiting for.
As for the game on the ice, both teams are battling in the very tight top 9 in the Western Conference, with the Blues sitting in 6th place at 19-10-4 for 42 points, while the Coyotes currently sit in 9th place at 18-13-3 for 39 points. Despite the differences in games played, a Coyotes win tonight could vault them into the top spot in the Pacific Division ahead of Dallas and San Jose, if those teams both lose tonight.
The story of the season thus far for St. Louis has been the remarkable turnaround since Ken Hitchcock was brought on to replace Davis Payne. Since Hitch came on board, St. Louis is an impressive 13-3-4. They've received excellent goaltending from Brian Elliott, who has posted a remarkable 13-3-0 record with a 1.52 GAA, .944 save percentage and 4 shutouts on the season. Jaroslav Who?
On the offensive side, the Blues are led by TJ Oshie, David Backes and Alexander Steen, each of whom has scored 11 goals thus far. Steen is also a very impressive +21 on the season. Further bolstering the Blues was the return of David Perron who returned earlier this month from a concussion and has played well since getting back in the lineup.
For the Desert Dogs, it will be the first homecoming for new defenseman David Rundblad and that should be exciting to observe. Coming off of the very successful run into the Southeast Division with 4 hard-earned points should hopefully spark this team into a nice little streak to close out the year. It was good to see Lauri Korpikoski net those two points and actually earn 3rd Star status for Thursday night from NHL on the Fly.
Obviously the bigger story is in goal where Mike Smith is expected to miss his second straight game after tweaking his groin against Florida. Jason LaBarbera played tremendously in relief to preserve the win in Miami and then did enough to give the Coyotes a follow-up win in Carolina. Barbs doesn't usually see such a heavy workload, but for this unknown stretch, it will be worth carefully watching how he can hold up. I know that the Pat Tilman Foundation will be looking to add to their charitable donations with another Barbs win.