Phoenix Coyotes at St. Louis Blues Preview: A Gateway Getaway

Dilip Vishwanat

The Coyotes begin a short, two game road trip through the Central division with a stop in St. Louis to take on the surging Blues.

Phoenix Coyotes

The Coyotes will enter tonight's game riding the momentum of yet another comeback victory on Saturday night against the Capitals. After playing a disjointed game where special teams was the order of the day, the Coyotes managed to score two goals in the final four minutes to tie it and secured the victory with another strong performance in the shootout. Defense and discipline have been the hallmark of Dave Tippett teams, but the Coyotes are winning without those at the moment, thanks in large part to 56 goals, good enough for fourth in the NHL. Their +1 goal differential is cause for concern though as they have allowed 55 goals this year.

Phoenix will try to get back on a winning streak and hopes to bounce back from a poor performance in their last game away from the friendly confines of Glendale. After losing 5-2 to the Ducks, the Coyotes have been outscored on the road 23-32, and that -9 road goal differential is 22nd in the league. Against the next two opponents, the Coyotes will need to bring a much better road game if they want to get points on this trip.

St. Louis Blues

The Blues enter tonight's matchup hot, winners of three in a row and six of their last seven. They had an impressive 2-1 victory in their last game against the Pittsburgh Penguins and tonight will be the third game of a five game home stand.

St. Louis is a physical team that likes to hit all game long. They love to cycle the puck and wear opponents down. Recently, they have owned the Coyotes, winning six of the past seven encounters between the teams, including all three games in last year's shortened season. The Blues don't take a lot of shots, but they don't allow many either as they are leading the league with the fewest shots against. With their strong two-headed goalie tandem and deep blueline, the Coyotes will have their hands full trying to continue their torrid offensive pace.

Rankings

NHL Rankings

Phoenix Coyotes

St. Louis Blues

Points

26 points (2nd Pacific)

24 points (3rd Central)

Goals Per Game

7th (3.11)

5th (3.33)

Goals Against Per Game

24th (3.06)

6th (2.20)

Power Play %

11th (20.3)

4th (23.2)

Penalty Kill %

25th (78.1)

17th (82.1)

Keys to the Game

Discipline, Discipline, Discipline. In the last two games, the Coyotes have taken 12 minor penalties resulting in 11 power play opportunities for their opponents. They have only killed seven of those chances which is a 63.6% clip, and that's not good. The Blues are a terror on the advantage, and the Coyotes need to be spending more time at full strength.

Be the Better Blueline. The Coyotes defensemen have been fantastic this season, led by Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Keith Yandle, and the veteran Derek Morris. They have accounted for 37 points between them. The Blues defenders are pretty good offensively as well, led by Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk and Jay Bouwmeester. That trio has combined for 34 points. Whichever unit contributes the most on the scoreboard will more than likely determine the outcome of this game.

Stay Offensive. The Coyotes outshot the Capitals on Saturday night, ending a streak of seven straight games where the were outshot by their opponents. The Coyotes take their shots, ranking eighth in shots per game, but they give up too many, allowing the fourth most per game. The Blues don't shoot a lot (17th), but they also don't allow many, giving up the 5th fewest per game. The Coyotes need to keep possession of the puck in the St. Louis end and establish their cycle, which has been absent for far too much of the season. This should allow their defense to have abetter night and keep pressure off of their goaltending.

Who's Hot


Shane Doan

#19 / Right Wing / Phoenix Coyotes

6-1

223

Oct 10, 1976



G A P +/- PIM
2013 - Shane Doan 8 4 12 0 8

The Captain has been on fire recently, with six goals in the last six games. He had the huge game tying goal on the power play against the Capitals and is on pace to set a career high in goals this season. Healthy and with the ownership monkey off of his back, Doan is playing a rejuvenated brand of hockey and is stepping up with the injury to Radim Vrbata. In short, he's doing what a captain should be doing.


Alexander Steen

#20 / Left Wing / St. Louis Blues

5-11

212

Mar 01, 1984



G A P +/- PIM
2013 - Alexander Steen 14 7 21 10 8

The son of Coyote franchise legend Tomas Steen is having a breakout season for the Blues at the tender age of 29. He's currently tied for fourth in the NHL with 21 points and his 14 goals are tied for the league lead. He has a point in every game but one this season and is on a ten game streak at the moment. He has 12 points in 14 career games against the Coyotes as a Blue, but only three goals. The Coyotes will need to keep him in check tonight.

Likely Starting Goaltenders


Mike Smith

#41 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes

6-4

215

Mar 22, 1982



GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2013 - Mike Smith 16 921 10 3 44 2.87 516 472 .915 0

Smith's numbers may seem pedestrian, but he's been playing better as of late. In his last five games, he has a 2.30 goals against average and a .935 save percentage. He's 1-3 in his career against the Blues as a Coyote.


Jaroslav Halak

#41 / Goalie / St. Louis Blues

5-10

186

May 13, 1985



GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2013 - Jaroslav Halak 12 712 9 2 26 2.19 300 274 .913 1

Halak's numbers are pretty good this year, although he has a low save percentage for a 2.19 GAA. Halak has faced the Coyotes four times, going 2-2 with a 2.53 GAA and a .919 SV%.

Injury Report

Derek Morris and Radim Vrbata both missed Saturday's tilt with the Caps with lower body injuries and both are questionable to suit up tonight.

For the Blues, Jordan Leopold is going to undergo surgery for a broken hand and will miss two months and Magnus Paajarvi is on the IR. After missing the last five games with an upper body injury, Brendan Morrow has been activated for tonight's matchup.

Puck Drop

Tonight's game is scheduled to start at 6:00 pm Arizona time. The game will be televised nationally on NBCSN and will be on the radio on KMVP 860 AM.

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