Doan: ‘It can’t get much lower, and we have to get better’
The St. Louis Blues have dominated their own division. Their Western Conference record has been brought back to Earth by Pacific Division foes.
They’ll try to begin correcting that Tuesday night against the Phoenix Coyotes as they open a three-game homestand versus Pacific opponents. The Coyotes, having lost three straight and five of six, will settle for a win of any kind.
The Blues (31-8-5) are 13-0-1 in the Central and 5-6-3 against the Pacific after Friday’s 2-1 loss in Vancouver. It snapped a seven-game winning streak, though the Blues return home looking for a fifth straight win at the Scottrade Center.
"We’ve been scoring some goals and getting a lot of wins lately so you expect to win every night so it’s tough when you don’t," goaltender Brian Elliott told the team’s official website. "We have a homestand coming to make it up."
Elliott made 22 saves as he also saw a personal seven-game winning streak come to an end. He’s allowed more than three goals once this season and has limited opponents to two or fewer in his last eight, a 7-1-0 stretch with a 1.41 goals-against average.
Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo scored the Blues’ only goal and has eight points on a five-game streak. He has nine points in his last eight games against Phoenix.
St. Louis has allowed nine goals in seven games with its penalty kill overcoming 20 straight short-handed situations in that time.
The strong defensive-zone presence has helped ease the continued absence of leading scorer Alexander Steen. He returned to practice Monday, though there is still no timetable for his return. He’s missed the last nine games due to a concussion, and the Blues are 7-1-1 without him.
"I don’t think you want to read anything into it though until he’s declared a player," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the team’s official website. "You could go through this for days; you could go through this for weeks. You don’t really know. It’s all kind of how he feels."
Phoenix (21-15-9) has scored five goals in three games after Monday’s 5-1 loss at Winnipeg.
The Coyotes took a first-period lead on a power-play goal from defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, but it lasted for less than a minute as the Jets poured it on with a 38-19 shot advantage. They faced eight short-handed situations and have allowed 14 goals in three games.
"It can’t get much lower, and we have to get better," captain Shane Doan said. "It seems that we find new ways (to lose) every time. We haven’t really had an issue with discipline so far this year with penalties, and this time we did. You can’t create much offense when you’re short-handed."
Doan and Mikkel Boedker, who has six points in five games, assisted on Ekman-Larsson’s goal.
Mike Smith made 33 saves but is 0-4-2 in eight games since winning for the last time on Dec. 21. He’s allowed 12 goals in his last three starts and is 1-2-0 against the Blues since the start of last season with a 3.65 GAA.
The Blues suffered a 3-2 overtime loss to the Coyotes in St. Louis on Nov. 12 after sweeping the three-game series a season ago.
Phoenix center Mike Ribeiro had two assists in the first meeting this season and has a six-game point streak against the Blues.
Coyotes at Blues
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Scottrade Center, St. Louis
TV: FOX Sports Arizona (5:30 p.m.)
Radio: KMVP 860 AM
Records: St. Louis 31-8-5; Phoenix 21-15-9
Scouting the Blues: They are fourth in the league in points (67) but you can make a strong argument that the Blues are the best team in the NHL right now. They have the best goal differential by a wide margin (+62), they lead the league in goals per game (3.57), they are third in goals against per game (2.2), they have the third-best power play (24.5 percent), the fifth-best penalty-killing unit (85.6 percent), 11 players have at least seven goals and they’ve beaten the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks all three times they’ve faced them. That’s all bad news for a Coyotes club that has five losses in its last six games; eight losses in its last 10; and 11 losses in its last 14. Alex Steen leads the Blues with 24 goals, 38 points and a stellar 20.5 shooting percentage, which is actually third on the team behind Brenden Morrow’s 22.6 and David Backes’ 20.7.
— Craig Morgan, FOX Sports