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Arizona Coyotes face a tough test versus the St. Louis Blues

Fresh off of a big win in Chicago, the Arizona Coyotes have a lot of work to do in order to beat the St. Louis Blues.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

In professional sports, there's little time to think about what just happened, whether that's after a bad loss or a big win. The Arizona Coyotes are going to put that mentality to the test tonight, when they take on a very good St. Louis Blues team as part of the second half of their road back-to-back.

Matchup at a Glance

Arizona Coyotes St. Louis Blues
Points 47 (6th Pacific) 72 (2nd Central)
Goals For 2.24 (26th) 3.06 (3rd)
Goals Against 3.20 (27th) 2.45 (T-8th)
Power Play 22.6% (6th) 24.0% (2nd)
Penalty Kill 78.1% (27th) 80.5% (18th)
5v5 Corsi For 48.6% (26th) 51.4% (13th)
PDO 97.6 (29th) 100.9 (8th)

View from Arizona

Could this be the Arizona Coyotes many expected when the season began?

Arizona is now 3-1-1 in the month of February, thanks to wins over the Montreal Canadiens, Columbus Blue Jackets, and, most recently, the Chicago Blackhawks. The victory in Chicago was emblematic of the style the Coyotes want to play: physical, opportunistic, and just a little bit lucky.

The Chicago game also demonstrated why Arizona's power play is so potent despite the relative lack of forward talent, while a team like Chicago is loaded up front yet struggles on the man advantage. It all has to do with the puck-movers. Keith Yandle extended his points streak to seven games, which is the longest active streak in the NHL, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson tallied an even-strength assist of his own last night. Both players have the creativity and skill to make Arizona's power play extremely effective.

View from St. Louis

The only team as happy with last night's result as the Coyotes is the St. Louis Blues. The Blues currently occupy the second seed in the Central Division, but have been unable to get much separation from third place Chicago. As Chicago only took away one point from yesterday's contest, the Blues would love to come away with two.

St. Louis will look to do so on a tough combination of skill and grit. The team's goals and points leader is the outstanding Vladimir Tarasenko, who added Corey Crawford to his list of goaltending victims with this incredible move Sunday afternoon:

Tarasenko is also complemented by Alexander Steen and Jaden Schwartz, as well as Kevin Shattenkirk on the back end (when healthy). In addition, St. Louis has several players who love to play tough, the likes of which include David Backes and Steve Ott. There are a lot of different ways for this team to win, and they take advantage of all of them.

Keys to the Game

  • Good Early Start - The Coyotes should be in good spirits following their win in Chicago, but playing another 60 minutes after already expending 65+ minutes of energy the night before is tiring. Get some good offensive pressure early and maybe even a goal, and Arizona will have a much easier time.
  • Clear Shooting Lanes - Mike Smith needs to be able to see what's happening in front of him. Make that as easy as possible.
  • Watch the Soft Spot - Marian Hossa's tying goal came while in the slot of the offensive zone between four Coyotes' defenders. They have to do a better job protecting that area.

Who's Hot

Per Fox Sports Arizona's Craig Morgan, Mike Smith has posted a +.920 save percentage or better in six of his last seven starts. He's giving Arizona a chance to win almost every game they've played in February.

Paul Stastny has not been the dynamic offensive threat the Blues hoped he would be when they signed him this summer. Nevertheless, he has a goal and four assists in his last five games, so perhaps he's rounding into form.

Injury Report

All of Arizona's injured players are on injured reserve. Martin Hanzal and Joe Vitale are not expected back for at least a week, while Mikkel Boedker will likely not be back until late February at the very earliest.

Kevin Shattenkirk is recovering from abdominal surgery and is considered week to week, while Chris Porter has an ankle injury that precludes him from playing anytime soon. Jori Lehtera has been dealing with concussion issues but is expected to play tonight.

Puck Drop

Tonight's game begins at 6 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on ESPN 620 AM.