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Coyotes return home to host Blues

by Davis Harper
BLUES (46-20-9) at COYOTES (37-26-13)

: FS-Midwest (HD), FS-Arizona (HD)

Last 10: St. Louis 6-2-2; Phoenix 4-2-4.

Season Series: This is the third of four season meetings, with the final to be played on April 6. St. Louis won both previous encounters.

Big Story: The League-leading St. Louis Blues wrap up a season-long, seven-game road trip in Phoenix, where the Coyotes are in a dogfight with a host of other Western teams for the eighth and final playoff place. Coming off a loss to San Jose on Saturday – as well as losses in nine of 13 in March – the Coyotes will be desperate for a full two points.

Team Scope:

Blues: Six days ago, St. Louis beat Tampa Bay, 3-1, and became the first team to clinch a playoff berth. However, that loss came sandwiched between four losses that have loosened the Blues' stranglehold on the Western Conference. A mid-week back-to-back in southern California did not go as planned for St. Louis, who lost Wednesday in Anaheim, 4-3, and followed that with a 1-0 shootout loss to Los Angeles. Against the Kings, the Blues employed their physical, grinding, opportunistic style but were unable to solve goalie Jonathan Quick. After calling his team "soft" when they allowed Anaheim to overcome a late deficit the night before, coach Ken Hitchcock was pleased with his team's performance despite the loss.

"We competed high," Hitchcock said. "It was an even hockey game. We competed at a very high level. If we can build on that, there's a term you use all the time … you've got to play well and lose before you can start winning again. So hopefully we're at that state and we can build on this."

Coyotes: On Thursday, Phoenix returned home after a four-game trip to face Colorado, another team battling for the final playoff place. The Coyotes jumped out to a 3-0 lead after two periods, then weathered a late Colorado rally for a 3-2 win. Phoenix was back on the road Saturday in San Jose, yet another matchup with playoff implications. For the second straight game, Daymond Langkow opened the scoring, but the Sharks matched the Coyotes at every turn, eventually forcing overtime. The extra period went scoreless, and San Jose sealed a 4-3 win with two shootout conversions.

In a division where just a point separates first and fourth place, points will be at a premium for Phoenix from here on out. The Coyotes are still tied for the Pacific lead with Dallas on 87 points, but Los Angeles and San Jose are nipping at their heels. Both have 86 points and a game in hand on the 'Yotes.

Who's Hot: Ray Whitney had an assist Saturday to extend his points streak to seven games. He has two goals and eight assists over that span.

Injury Report: For the Blues, Carlo Colaiacovo is questionable for Sunday's game with a lower-back injury. Andy McDonald will miss 1-2 weeks with a bruised right shoulder, while Kris Russell (concussion-like symptoms), Matt D'Agostini (concussion) and Alexander Steen (concussion-like symptoms) are all out indefinitely. … Both Taylor Pyatt and Adrian Aucoin missed Saturday’s game against San Jose. Shane Doan is serving the third game of his three-game suspension. Kyle Chipchura is on injured reserve with a wrist injury.

Stat Pack: Brian Elliott – in net for St. Louis against the Kings – has lost five of his last six starts, his lowest point of a breakout season. However, Elliott only conceded more than two goals only once over that span, and St. Louis hasn't scored in 97:49 with Elliott in net.
Puck Drop: After Saturday's shootout loss, Phoenix coach Dave Tippett talked about the importance of getting points from each game.

"We know what our situation is – we know where we are, we know where we want to get to. We know the next game is just one we’re going to have to go back and compete the same way as tonight. We've got a great group in there that has to figure out how to get points. We did that tonight, and we're going to have to do it tomorrow."
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