The Phoenix Coyotes and the St. Louis Blues recognize their upcoming matchups are vital to their postseason aspirations.
With both teams trying to claw their way into playoff position in the tight Western Conference race, the Coyotes and Blues face off twice in the next five days, beginning Tuesday night in St. Louis.
Though Phoenix (27-28-5) and St. Louis (25-26-8) both own losing records, they're also both in postseason contention. The teams will face each other again Saturday night in Arizona.
Minnesota (64 points) currently holds the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, but the seven teams chasing that spot are all within seven points of the Wild. The Coyotes are tied for 12th with 59 points - one ahead of the Blues and two in front of last-place Colorado.
"They are fighting (for the playoffs) just like we are," second-year Coyotes forward Peter Mueller told his team's official Web site. "It seems like every game we play right now is getting harder and harder. We are expecting a very hard, gritty game in St. Louis."
The Coyotes have won nine of their last 11 meetings with the Blues, but had their six-game winning streak in St. Louis snapped Dec. 6, when they lost 4-3 in this season's only previous matchup between these clubs.
Phoenix dropped nine of its first 10 games after the All-Star break, but is suddenly in position to match its season-high three-game winning streak from Nov. 8-12. The Coyotes earned a 4-3 shootout win at home over Atlanta last Thursday, then opened this three-game road trip with a 6-3 victory Saturday at Los Angeles behind Olli Jokinen's sixth career hat trick.
"It's nice to score, but the bottom line is to get two points and stay in this playoff race," said Jokinen, who ended an 11-game goal-scoring drought. "It was a good solid road game and we got two big points out of it."
Jokinen has two goals and an assist in his last three meetings against St. Louis.
He'll look to get the best of Chris Mason, who has compiled a 3.98 goals-against average while losing his last three starts versus the Coyotes.
Mason, though, has gone 8-3-4 with a 1.68 GAA while playing in each of St.Louis' last 15 games to help keep the Blues in the playoff picture.
Mason took a tough-luck loss Saturday night at home, making 21 saves but falling 1-0 in overtime to Nashville. St. Louis was shut out for the fourth time this season, although it did collect at least a point for the fifth time in its last six contests (3-1-2).
"We certainly had ample opportunity to score some goals and we didn't do that," coach Andy Murray said of his Blues, who outshot the Predators 30-22.