Thanks to Martin Hanzal and Ed Jovanovski, the Phoenix Coyotes are playing some of their best hockey of the season.
Looking for their third straight win overall, the surging Coyotes kick off a three-game road trip on Saturday night against the St. Louis Blues.
Phoenix (12-11-4) lost a season-high six in a row from Nov. 13-24, but has since bounced back by winning four of five, all in regulation. Two keys to the turnaround have been Hanzal and Jovanovski.
Hanzal recorded his first NHL hat trick on Thursday in a 6-3 home win over Toronto. After recording eight goals in 72 games as a rookie in 2007-08, Hanzal has scored four of his six goals in Phoenix's last five contests.
Jovanovski had two assists against the Maple Leafs, giving him six over the last five games. He had a goal and three assists in his first 20 games.
The boost Phoenix has received from Hanzal and Jovanovski has offset the loss of Olli Jokinen, who's missed the last four games with a shoulder injury. According to the Coyotes' official Web site, Jokinen skated in practice on Friday, but will miss this game and Sunday's against Chicago before he's expected to return on Wednesday versus Dallas.
"Olli is doing probably a little better than we anticipated or expected," coach Wayne Gretzky said. "He's a little ahead of where we thought he might be at this time. Realistically, we are looking at Wednesday night against Dallas. Anytime before that I would probably say it would be a stretch."
Jokinen is second on the team with seven goals and 11 assists. Leading scorer Shane Doan has 12 goals and 24 points, but also has failed to record a point in his last three games versus St. Louis.
The Coyotes have had little difficulty against the Blues in recent years. Phoenix swept the four-game series in 2007-08, and has won nine of the last 10 matchups, including the last six at Scottrade Center.
St. Louis (10-11-3) began a three-game homestand on Friday with a 4-3 overtime loss to Calgary.
The Blues led 2-0 after the first period, and 3-1 after two, but Chris Mason allowed two power-play goals early in the third before being beaten by Michael Cammalleri 2:21 into the extra session.
"I refuse to let them talk about the negatives because we know there are some things we can correct, but right now we need every single point we can get," Blues coach Andy Murray said.
Mason, who had spent his entire career with Nashville prior to this season, has allowed 12 goals while losing his last three starts against the Coyotes. Manny Legace has also struggled, going 0-6-1 with a 3.17 goals-against average versus Phoenix since March 7, 2006.
Against Calgary, Brad Boyes and Patrik Berglund each had a goal and assist as the Blues lost for the fourth time in five games after a season high-tying three-game winning streak.
Boyes, who leads St. Louis with 13 goals and 22 points this season, is approaching a pair of milestones. He needs one goal for 100 in his NHL career, and one point for 100 since the Blues acquired him in a trade with Boston in 2007.
Boyes has two goals in six career games against Phoenix.