ST. LOUIS - Tonight’s game against the Arizona Coyotes (7 p.m., FSMW, KMOX) is ripe with opportunity.
It’s an opportunity to get back on track, to ignite an offense that has scored just once in each of its last three games. It’s also an opportunity for a young defenseman in Petteri Lindbohm to prove he can stay with the Blues and not go back to the AHL.
But the biggest opportunity to belong to Magnus Paajarvi, who will move up to the first line tonight looking to bring some speed for Paul Stastny and Vladimir Tarasenko to work with.
“That’s what I need to do. Drive and push people back so they get space - especially Vladi, who can shoot it from anywhere,” Paajarvi said after the morning skate on Tuesday. “(Try to) give Stastny one extra second so he will make plays. I’m going to try to utilize my speed, that’s number one for sure.”
“Everybody talks about his speed, but he’s a smart guy, too,” Tarasenko said of Paajarvi. “He’s an unbelievable skater. I think he’s the best skater on the team. At the same time, he’s a smart player who can score a lot of goals and make some plays. I’m looking forward to tonight and it will be really interesting for us.”
Since being called up from the Chicago Wolves on Nov. 4, Paajarvi has played in 14 games, scoring one goal and one assist. But tonight, Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock just wants Paajarvi to recognize the opportunity and play his game.
“It’s pretty simple,” Hitchcock said. “He’s got speed, he’s got tenacity. When he’s on his A-game, he’s at his best when he’s consistent. If he’s really dialed in, he's an effective player. With the injury to Ott, we’ve moved guys up one more notch and they get an opportunity to be good players.
“Take advantage of it. You don’t get these opportunities very often.”
The Coyotes will wrap up a five-game road trip tonight against the Blues and have given up five goals in each of their last four games.
On Sunday, Arizona rallied in the third period to overcome a 3-2 deficit in Carolina, but lost 5-4 after giving up two goals in the final five minutes, including Justin Faulk’s power-play goal with 17 seconds remaining in regulation.
“To play that well and be that dominant over time and for that to happen, that’s a tough loss,” Hitchcock said. “They’ve had a day or two to regroup so I’m sure we’re going to get their A-game today.”
The Blues haven’t lost in their last nine games against the Coyotes (8-0-1) and have won five straight, outscoring Arizona 20-5 in those games.
“We saw what they can do on the scouting reports and stuff, and they’ve got a young, fast, skilled team with a good goalie,” said Jake Allen, who will start tonight and is 4-0-0 in his career against the Coyotes. “They’re dangerous when they get the opportunities. We’re going to have to be on our toes tonight. It’s another tough test.
“We hit a little rough patch here,” Allen added. “Every team does every year. We have a great opportunity in front of us right now with the amount of home games we have before Christmas break to get this thing back on the tracks and get going again.”
Lindbohm was on the ice for the morning skate today and will play tonight against the Coyotes. It will be Lindbohm’s first NHL game of the season after he was sent to the Chicago Wolves following training camp.
Lindbohm, 22, played 23 games for the Blues last season and says he’ll use that experience to help him tonight.
“It’s easier,” Lindbohm said of joining the Blues this time around. “I know how we play, I know the guys. It just makes the game easier for me. I want to play in this League, and I need to show it every day.”
With the Wolves, Lindbohm has played in 20 games, recording seven points (two goals, five assists) and 22 penalty minutes.
Paajarvi - Stastny - Tarasenko
Steen - Backes - Brouwer
Fabbri - Lehtera - Jaskin
Upshall - Gomez - Reaves
Bouwmeester - Pietrangelo
Lindbohm - Shattenkirk
Gunnarsson - Parayko
David Backes has five goals and two assists (seven points) in the last three games against Arizona, including a four-goal game last season on Jan. 6. Overall, Backes has 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists) in 31 career games against the Coyotes - his third highest career point total against any NHL team.
Alexander Steen has a five-game point streak vs. Arizona (two goals, five assists).
Fans that donate a new, unwrapped toy at tonight’s Toys for Tots drive will receive a raffle ticket for a chance to win great Blues prizes, including tickets to an upcoming game and autographed merchandise.