BLUES (9-2-3) at COYOTES (6-5-5)
TV: FS-MW (HD)
St. Louis 7-1-2; Phoenix 4-3-3
First of four meetings this season. The teams split the games on their 2009-10 slate, including an overtime win at home for each side. Ed Jovanovski scored with 1:23 left in the extra period to give Phoenix a 3-2 win on Oct. 15, 2009, while Erik Johnson needed just 17 seconds to return the favor on Nov. 19 as St. Louis claimed a 3-2 victory.
It's not always about the number of games you lose, it's how you lose them. While the Coyotes have lost a total of 10 games -- tied for the second-most in the Western Conference and just one fewer than the last-place Oilers -- they've earned points in five of them for making it through regulation tied. As a result, they sit in a three-way tie for seventh place in the West as play begins Saturday.
Following a torrid start to the season that featured a seven-game winning streak, St. Louis is starting to be tested with some adversity. Injuries have thinned the defense as well as claiming talented young forwards David Perron
and TJ Oshie. Perron has missed the past four games with a concussion while Oshie will miss several months with a broken ankle. The Blues have also lost two in a row, though they gained a point out of a 3-2 shootout loss to the Predators on Thursday.
"I like the way we responded," Matt D'Agostini
told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "We didn't get the two points, and it kind of goes down as a two-game losing streak. But I think we got back to playing our game. That's a good team over there. They played hard, give them credit, and so did we. It came down to a shootout, that happens."
One point is better than none, but if Phoenix wants to build off what it accomplished last season then gaining two points out of more games will be necessary -- and the Coyotes seem to have gotten the message. They bring their first two-game winning streak of the season into Saturday's action following a 5-4 home win over the Flames on Friday. Vernon Fiddler recorded the hat trick, his third score coming into an empty net and giving the 'Yotes a three-goal lead that proved critical when the Flames scored twice in the final minute.
"We played well in Detroit (a 3-2 overtime loss on Monday) and snuck out two points in Chicago so this was a game we really wanted," said Scottie Upshall, who also had a goal. "We've had trouble putting back-to-back wins together and we did it against a good team that really came at us."
D'Agostini scored his team-leading sixth goal for the Blues on Thursday. His career high is 12 for the Canadiens two seasons ago. … Wojtek Wolski has 1 goal and 3 assists in his last four games and has moved into a four-way tie for the Coyotes' scoring lead with 9 points.
In addition to Perron and Oshie, forward Brad Winchester is out indefinitely with a knee injury and St. Louis has defensemen Barret Jackman
(sprained knee), Roman Polak
(wrist) and Carlo Colaiacovo
(concussion) on injured reserve. … Phoenix captain Shane Doan
(upper body) and defenseman Kurt Sauer
(concussion) are on injured reserve.
The Blues have struggled on the power play, coming up empty on their last 25 opportunities and going 3-for-42 since Oct. 16. … Fiddler became the third member of the Coyotes to have a three-goal game this season, following Jovanovski and Lee Stempniak
One piece of good news involving a St. Louis forward came Friday when it was announced David Backes
had signed a five-year contract extension. Already a 30-goal scorer and U.S. Olympian by the age of 26, he could have been an unrestricted free agent next summer.
"As much as you like to think you're mentally strong and you can block it out, it does weigh on you," Backes told the Post-Dispatch in regard to his contract situation. "It's human nature. Obviously we had a commitment to stay here and the Blues are making a big commitment to keep me here. I think it's a great day for both sides."