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Coyotes go for third in a row vs. Blues

by Brian Compton /

COYOTES (12-9-0) at BLUES (6-8-4)

Last 10 -- Coyotes 5-5-0; Blues 2-5-3

Season series -- This is the third of four meetings between the teams. Phoenix has won the first two games, including a 2-0 victory at St. Louis on Oct. 29.

Big story -- The Coyotes continue to find ways to stay competitive despite issues both on and off the ice. Not only is the team waiting for a new owner, but it's also fighting the injury bug as three top defensemen are out of action. Nonetheless, the Coyotes are three games above the .500 mark and right in the thick of the playoff race in the Western Conference.

Team scope :

Coyotes -- Anybody who thought Phoenix would have more points than the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 19, raise your hand.

Indeed, the Coyotes -- who finished with 79 points last season -- moved a point ahead of the defending Western Conference champs with Wednesday's 3-2 win at Minnesota. Scottie Upshall notched the game-winner with 4:39 remaining -- just 19 seconds after the Wild had tied it.

Blues -- St. Louis has dropped back-to-back games since pummeling Vancouver in a 6-1 victory on Nov. 10. The second straight loss came on Saturday, when Dany Heatley and Jed Ortmeyer scored just 16 seconds in the second period of a 3-1 defeat to the San Jose Sharks at the Scottrade Center.

Despite firing a season-high 39 shots on goal, it marked the 12th time in 18 games (eight of 10 at home) this season that the Blues have scored two goals or less.

"Our goal-scorers are squeezing their sticks," coach Andy Murray said. "Pucks are laying there or they're just going by the net or we're not putting it in. Keep working, and the pucks that are not going in now will find a way to go in for us."

Who's hot -- Radim Vrbata had a goal and an assist on Wednesday night and is regaining his scoring touch in Phoenix (6 goals, 5 assists). Ilya Bryzgalov has racked up 11 victories and has been one of the League's top goaltenders this season. … St. Louis defenseman Erik Johnson, who missed all of last season, is tied for the team lead with 12 points (1 goal, 11 assists). Two of David Perron's seven goals are game-winners.

Injury report -- Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski (lower body) missed his fifth straight game on Wednesday and is questionable for Thursday. Zbynek Michalek (lower body) and Kurt Sauer (upper body) are also not expected to play. … Blues right wing David Backes (upper body) is questionable, while left wings D.J. King (broken hand) and Alex Steen (wrist) are out.

Stat pack -- Veteran defenseman Adrian Aucoin is regaining his old form in Phoenix. He played more than 24 minutes on Wednesday night and has points in three of his last five games. … Blues forward Patrik Berglund has just one point in his last 11 contests.

Puck drop -- It will be interesting to see if the Coyotes can get the job done on Thursday after having to travel from Minnesota to St. Louis following Wednesday night's win. With so many defensemen on the shelf, everyone on the Phoenix roster will have to again pay extra attention to the defensive side of things.

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