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White-hot St. Louis Blues roll into Arizona to play Coyotes

The Blues are heating up at just the right moment this season.

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at St. Louis Blues Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

After a tough-luck loss against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night, the Arizona Coyotes will play host to the St. Louis Blues in the first of three games against St. Louis over the next two weeks.

View from St. Louis

For more on the St. Louis Blues, check out St. Louis Game Time

The St. Louis Blues were in serious danger of missing the playoffs not too long ago. But this month the Blues have won six games out of their last seven to open a small four point lead on the Los Angeles Kings for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. Both teams have 12 games remaining.

So far, St. Louis is getting it done on both sides of the ice; St. Louis’ opponents in the month of March have scored 14 goals in eight games, while the Blues have scored 21 goals in that stretch.

Vladimir Tarasenko is a legitimate star for the Blues, but behind him five different players have 14+ goals this year. Patrik Berglund is having his best scoring year since 2011-12, while Jaden Schwartz has bounced back from a broken ankle that caused him to miss 49 games last season.

The decision to trade Kevin Shattenkirk will loom large for the remainder of the season if the Blues manage to hold on and make the playoffs. But for now, the Blues are doing alright without him.

View from Arizona

The Arizona Coyotes are in full-blown playoff spoiler mode right now, as ten of Arizona’s final 12 games are against teams either in playoff position or within five points of a playoff spot. And the point Arizona took from Los Angeles in the shootout this week is looming large now.

Arizona’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Wings is the first kind of game the young Coyotes are going to have to learn how to win. That game featured wild swings back and forth in the second and third periods, with Detroit and Arizona trading goals since early in the second period all the way to the end of regulation.

The defensive miscues have been there all season long, and will continue all the way until season’s end. But at least on Thursday night the Coyotes showed they were capable of pushing back.

Three Questions

  1. Can the Coyotes clean up their act? - Arizona gave Detroit seven power plays in one night. That is, put mildly, way too many. St. Louis has a top five power play in the NHL, so can the Coyotes be more disciplined?
  2. Have the Coyotes learned how to answer? - The Coyotes never trailed by more than one goal against the Wings. Can they keep pace with the Blues?
  3. Will the late game offense continue to show up? - Max Domi was huge to force overtime against the net empty against the Kings, while Jakob Chychrun was able to do the same late in the third against Detroit. Can Arizona continue to apply pressure late?

Players to Watch

St. Louis - Vladimir Tarasenko - Last season, Tarasenko put up 40 goals and 34 assists in 80 games. This year, Tarasenko has 34 goals and 29 assists in 70 games. With five goals in his last five games, Tarasenko may still have a chance to top his marks from last year.

Arizona - Jakob Chychrun - This post sums up Chychrun’s season quite nicely:

Chychrun’s ceiling is still very much to be determined, but he’s off to a great start as an NHLer, and how he fell to 16th overall is a mystery.

Injury Report

Robby Fabbri is done for the rest of the year due to a torn ACL, while Dmitrij Jaskin is not expected back until the end of March. Jori Lehtera is listed as questionable for tonight’s game.

Kevin Connauton, Brad Richardson, and Alexander Burmistrov are all out indefinitely, while both Luke Schenn and Shane Doan are officially considered questionable for tonight’s game.

Puck Drop

Tonight’s game gets underway at 6 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.