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Blues battle Coyotes before national TV audience

by Brian Hunter

COYOTES (12-4-2) at BLUES (11-2-2)


Last 10: Phoenix 8-2-0; St. Louis 7-1-2

Season series: This is the first of three meetings between the Phoenix Coyotes and St. Louis Blues. The Blues swept three games from the Coyotes last season, including a 2-1 shootout win in the most recent matchup on April 18 at Scottrade Center.

Big story: Each team has been playing like a division leader, and that the Coyotes only sit second in the Pacific and the Blues third in the Central speaks to how stacked the Western Conference has shaped up to be this season. The Coyotes enter off a come-from-behind win against the Washington Capitals on Saturday, while the Blues edged the Pittsburgh Penguins that same night.

Team Scope:

Coyotes: Shane Doan has scored 20 or more goals in 11 of the past 12 full seasons for Phoenix, and while the captain turned 37 in October he hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. Of late, Doan has been downright unstoppable.

After scoring twice against the Capitals in a 4-3 shootout victory, Doan has four goals in his past three games and six in as many contests. His power-play goal with 1:46 left in regulation followed a Lauri Korpikoski goal as the Coyotes scored twice in 100 seconds to draw even. Antoine Vermette and Mikkel Boedker then connected in the penalty-shot tiebreaker.

"You're fortunate to be in the right spot at the right time on the PP and finding some loose ones here and there," Doan told the team's website. "Power play can carry everybody, and it feels good when you're contributing, and right now, being able to score, it feels fun."

Blues: Balance has been the name of the game in St. Louis, with the Blues ranking fifth in goals per game (3.33) and sixth in goals-against average (2.20) entering Tuesday. Their defense took a hit, however, with the announcement veteran Jordan Leopold will need surgery to repair ligament damage in his hand and be sidelined for a minimum of eight weeks. The team agreed to terms on a contract with former Blue Carlo Colaiacovo on Tuesday, but for now Ian Cole takes Leopold's place in the lineup.

"He's a good player," Hitchcock said of Cole. "He's really helped himself here by his attitude and everything. He's ready to go. I don't see us missing a beat."

Jaroslav Halak, who made 19 saves in the Blues' 2-1 win against the Penguins, will get the start Tuesday. Alexander Steen, who is tied with the injured Steven Stamkos for the NHL goal lead with 14, will look to extend a 10-game point streak.

Who's hot: Mike Smith has won five of his past six starts for the Coyotes and is 9-1-2 over his past dozen decisions. … Steen has 10 goals and three assists during his current point streak. His 21 points leave him two behind Stamkos and Sidney Crosby for the League lead. Halak has won four of his past five starts, allowing two goals or fewer in each victory.

Injury report: Phoenix defenseman Derek Morris (lower body) has been placed on injured reserve, while forward Radim Vrbata (lower body) is day-to-day. … St. Louis lost Leopold but could get back forward Brenden Morrow (upper body), who skated on the fourth line at practice Monday. Forward Magnus Paajarvi (upper body) is also skating, but not ready to return.

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