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Blues aim to end skid against Coyotes

by Davis Harper

BLUES (11-9-2) at COYOTES (11-9-3)


Last 10: St. Louis 5-4-1; Phoenix 5-4-1

Season series: This is the first of three meetings, and the only at the Arena. St. Louis took three of four from Phoenix last season, although the Coyotes won the final meeting of the season, 4-1, on April 6, 2012.

Big story: After conceding 10 goals in the first two games of its five-game road trip, St. Louis will try to recapture its defensive prowess against Phoenix. The Coyotes, winners of three of five against tough competition, will look to bolster their postseason resume with a victory.

Team scope:

Blues: After a strong defensive outing in a 4-2 win against Edmonton last Friday, St. Louis set out on its longest road trip of the season hoping to continue that trend. But things have gone from bad – a 4-1 loss in Dallas on Sunday – to worse, as the Blues conceded five unanswered goals in a 6-4 defeat at the hands of Los Angeles. The Blues led 4-1 midway through the second period, but the Kings came roaring back, scoring five times over the final 30 minutes. Jaroslav Halak was pulled after conceding five goals, the most the Blues’ goalie has given up since March 12, 2011.

With goaltending a concern, the Blues recalled Jake Allen from Peoria of the American Hockey League late Tuesday night.

"We took our foot off the gas, and you can't do that against good teams," captain David Backes said. "They took it to us. We made too many mistakes and they put it in the back of our net. We got off our game plan and tried to be too cute in our end when they were putting pressure on us, rather than just getting the puck out and working it down the ice the way we did in the first period.”

Coyotes: In a scheduling quirk borne from the shortened season, Phoenix just faced streaking Anaheim three consecutive times. The first two, both at Arena, were nearly identical 5-4 shootout wins for Phoenix. The Coyotes, typically a low-scoring, tight-checking outfit, were boosted by the two high-scoring wins.

“That's a very good team and 5-4 is not our usual game plan,” center Antoine Vermette said after the second game. “But we found a way to fight and keep pace. It's a good sign that we can step outside our style and find a way to get points.”

Unfortunately, Wednesday’s third and final Ducks matchup, played more at Phoenix’s hard-checking pace, resulted in a 2-0 win for Anaheim. Jason LaBarbera made 22 saves to keep Phoenix in it, but the Coyotes were unable to get out of their defensive zone for much of the game and managed only 18 shots.

Who’s hot: David Perron has a two goals and an assist in his last two games for St. Louis.

Injury report: The Blues’ struggles can in part be chalked to injuries to important offensive players. Forwards Andy McDonald (knee), Alexander Steen (shoulder), Vladimir Tarasenko (concussion) are all day-to-day, while Jamie Langenbrunner (hip) is out for the season. … For Phoenix, Radim Vrbata (lower body) and David Schlemko (upper body) are day-to-day.

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