Though they're out of the playoff race for the fourth straight season, the Phoenix Coyotes still can find reasons to get up for games - especially when facing the St. Louis Blues.
The Coyotes can sweep the season series from St. Louis and extend their winning streak over the Blues to six games with a win on Tuesday night.
Phoenix (29-44-5), which is trying to snap a four-game slide overall, hasn't lost to St. Louis since Dec. 20, 2005. A big reason behind the Coyotes' recent success in the head-to-head matchup has been the play of former Blues goaltender Curtis Joseph.
Joseph, who turns 40 on April 29, is 10-1-0 with a 2.11 goals-against average since December 2001, against the team he broke into the league with in 1989.
The Coyotes netminder passed Jacques Plante on the all-time wins list earlier this year and has 444 heading into the final four games of the regular season. Should he win all of those contests, Joseph would pass Terry Sawchuk for fourth on the NHL's all-time list.
But Joseph struggled in March, going 1-8-1 with a 3.85 GAA. He stopped 21 shots Friday night in a 4-2 loss to San Jose. Fredrik Sjostrom and Steve Reinprecht scored for Phoenix, which fell to 6-33-0 this season when scoring two or fewer goals.
"We're not very good," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "We don't shoot the puck enough at opportune times. We don't crash the nets. We don't simplify the game, and you're not going to score."
St. Louis (33-33-13) started a four-game, season-ending road trip with a 4-2 win over Dallas on Monday night, preventing the Stars from clinching their fourth straight playoff appearance.
With the score tied at 1, Glen Metropolit and Doug Weight scored 17 seconds apart late in the second period for St Louis. Lee Stempniak also had his third two-goal game this season.
St. Louis went 0-for-2 on the power play, and is just 1-for-43 with the man advantage over the last 11 games. Still, the Blues improved to 26-16-9 since Andy Murray took over as coach for the fired Mike Kitchen in December.
"We've got one of the best records in the league over the last 50 games," Murray said. "We've beaten some of the top teams in the league. We're just trying to finish the season strong."
The Blues need two wins in their final three games, including matchups with playoff-bound Minnesota and Nashville, to finish above .500 after a franchise-worst 21-win season in 2005-06. St. Louis is 12-8-5 in its past 25 games against teams headed to the playoffs.