The Phoenix Coyotes go into Thursday night's contest against the St. Louis Blues likely needing to win the game and the five which follow it to have any shot at making the NHL playoffs. The Valley's hockey club currently sits in eleventh place, seven points back of their seventh place hosts. In addition to their recent poor performances against Calgary & San Jose, the Desert Dogs have a 1-5 record against Ken Hitchcock's club since the coach took over in St. Louis. The lone win came in a game late last season which likely wasn't indicative of much of anything as the Blues had little to play for while the Coyotes were fighting to make the playoffs.
If the lack of recent success against other teams and the squad from Missouri wasn't enough for people not to be enthused about the game, the prospect of watching a Hitchcock style hockey team likely will do the trick. For the Coyotes fans planning on watching the game you might want to have No-Doze on hand.
Like Phoenix , St. Louis has been struggling to score goals. No team has scored less goals at home than the Blues. Unlike the Coyotes, the Blues defense and goaltending have done enough to keep their heads above water lately. However, the Blues, also like the Coyotes, have been struggling on the power play. The Blues have the fifth best home penalty kill (88.5%) which doesn't bode well for the Coyotes anemic road power play (11.6%). Everything points to this game being a low scoring affair.
Five For Winning
1. Goals. Forget the usual score first, just score. The Coyotes didn't put the puck in the net a single time in their last game on Monday and didn't the last time they played the Blues either.
2. Contain the Captain. David Backes went all Hulk on the Canucks on Tuesday night. The Yotes need to put a body on him and not give him time/space, unlike what they did with Logan Couture in their last game.
3. Elude the Trap. The Yotes tend to struggle mightily when teams employ systems which clog the neutral zone. Given the Phoenix's lack of elite passing skill they likely need to find ways to create aggressive dump and chase situations. Having players hitting the blueline at full speed and with ill intent will be crucial.
4. Energy. The Coyotes have been lacking this ingredients for the majority of time in their last two contests.
5. Desperation. Related to #4.The Yotes need to be the more desperate team. They haven't looked like a team fighting for their playoff lives in their last 2 games.
Players To Watch
#89 / Left Wing / Phoenix Coyotes
Dec 16, 1989
|2012 - Mikkel Boedker||42||7||18||25||0||10||3||0||2||75|
The young Dane's speed could come in handy against Hitchcock's system. He had the best scoring chances of any Coyotes' forward against the Sharks.
#25 / Right Wing / St. Louis Blues
Oct 30, 1987
|2012 - Chris Stewart||42||16||15||31||2||38||4||0||3||84|
The last time the Yotes met the Blues, Stewart had 2 goals and an assist. He also scored a goal in their other meeting this season.
Likely Starting Goaltenders
#1 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes
Jan 18, 1980
|2012 - Jason LaBarbera||14||666||3||6||29||2.61||372||343||.922||0|
Barbs has been a steady hand this season. He gave up 4 goals in his last outing on Monday, but most of them were due to defensive lapses not his play. It's been an all too familiar refrain when he's started games this season.
#1 / Goalie / St. Louis Blues
Apr 09, 1985
|2012 - Brian Elliott||18||951||9||7||40||2.52||391||351||.898||3|
He's back to the form he had last year when Jaroslov Halak and he were arguably the best goalie tandem in the game. He's already backstopped the Blues to 3 shutouts this month and only gave up one goal in his last outing on Tuesday night.
Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) - Day to Day
Mike Smith (lower body) - Day to Day
Jaroslav Halak (lower body) - Out
Scott Nichol (upper body) - Day to Day
T. J. Oshie (ankle) - Out