SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The Arizona Coyotes have earned some of their most impressive wins of the season during a run of four victories in their past five games. But they know it will take another high-level effort to continue the run against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday.
The Blues, led by the top line of Alexander Steen, T.J. Oshie and David Backes, come into the game playing at a high level. They have combined for eight goals and 20 points since being reunited for the past five games and dominated a 7-2 win against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday. Oshie had a hat trick and joined Steen with four points in the victory.
The Coyotes and Blues have played once this season, when the Coyotes allowed four power-play goals in a 6-1 loss on Oct. 18.
"The Blues are a hard-working team coming off a real strong win over San Jose and we know what they are all about," Arizona coach Dave Tippett said.
The Coyotes have a hot line of their own. Center Martin Hanzal tied a career-high with seven points and teamed with Sam Gagner for seven points in a 6-3 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan. 3. After a franchise record nine-game losing streak at home, the Coyotes have won four straight at Gila River Arena with impressive victories against the Anaheim Ducks, Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus.
"Our group has won four out of five and we've played well in stretches," Tippett said. "This is a good test against a good team, to see if we can raise our level against a team we know is going to play hard. We've come a ways as a team since the last time we played them and we're definitely going to have to play better than we did then."
After scoring 10 power-play goals in the first 18 home games, the Coyotes scored three with the man advantage against the Blue Jackets, outperforming the NHL's top-rank power-play unit. Tippett was especially pleased with the goalie traffic provided by Hanzal and Gagner's ability to finish.
"Hanzal is better in the fray and is better outside the fray," Tippett said. "Our power play is a work in progress but it's getting better and that's as good as it's looked. We were hard at the net, finding rebounds and playing like that gives the whole team momentum. That's what you want your power play to do, do it right and provide a boost."
Tippett will replace Martin Erat with Tobias Rieder on Hanzal's line. Rieder was Arizona's best player in the first 30 minutes against Columbus, scoring a goal and drawing three penalties with his speed and quickness.
"The level of maturity he's playing with right now, you can tell it's very strong for a young player," Tippett said. "Sometimes younger players will play three of four good games and then take a step back. Tobias will play three or four good once and follow it up with three or four more good ones. He's established himself as a good NHL player and a valuable part of our team."
Here are the projected lineups:
Alexander Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Patrik Berglund - Paul Stastny - Dmitrij Jaskin
Steve Ott - Maxim Lapierre – Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson - Kevin Shattenkirk
Barret Jackman - Ian Cole
Scratched: Joakim Lindstrom, Chris Butler, Martin Brodeur
Injured: Chris Porter (leg)
Mikkel Boedker – Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Tobias Rieder - Martin Hanzal - Sam Gagner
Lauri Korpikoski – Kyle Chipchura – David Moss
Martin Erat – Joe Vitale – B.J. Crombeen
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Zbynek Michalek
Keith Yandle - Michael Stone
Brandon Gormley - Connor Murphy
Scratched: Lucas Lessio, Brandon McMillan, Chris Summers
Status report: The Coyotes recalled Lessio from the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League on Monday but he will sit Tuesday as a scratch. The Blues elevated Allen in the backup goalie position behind Elliott, leaving Brodeur as a scratch. Smith gets a second straight start for Arizona after winning his first game since Dec. 1 against the Blue Jackets.
Who's hot: Shattenkirk is coming off a career-high four points against the Sharks. … Schwartz played for the first time in eight games and recorded a goal and an assist to bring him to 100 career points. … Oshie will dress in his 403rd game as a Blue, tying Frank St. Marseille for 18th on the all-time games played list among St. Louis forwards.