Blues-Coyotes Preview

Stuck in a bit of a rough stretch, the St. Louis Blues have not

lost confidence.

The Blues look to avoid a third straight loss while trying to

continue their road success against the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday

night.

St.Louis (9-2-3) had won seven in a row before an 8-1 loss at

Columbus on Wednesday. The Blues followed that embarrassing outcome

with a 3-2 shootout defeat to Nashville the next night, but coach

Davis Payne couldn’t find fault with his team’s effort.

“We got our game to the right place,” he said.

Even without key injured players like David Perron (concussion),

T.J. Oshie (ankle), Barret Jackman (knee) and Carlo Colaiacovo

(concussion) and two straight losses, the Blues will not panic.

St. Louis is among the Western Conference leaders with 21

points, and heads to Phoenix where it is 3-0-1 after two straight

regulation losses during the 2007-08 season.

“With a few injuries, we’ve still been able to maintain a high

level of play,” forward David Backes said. “We plan on doing that,

not for just the rest of this year and into the playoffs, but for

years to come.

“Maybe I don’t know any better, but I know this group’s trending

in the right direction.”

Backes will be around to lead that potential run after signing a

five-year contract extension Friday.

The fifth-year winger recorded 102 points the past two seasons,

but has two goals and four assists this season. He has two goals

and five assists in his last seven road games against the

Coyotes.

St. Louis’ Jaroslav Halak has given up six goals while losing

two in a row – matching the total allowed when he won his previous

six starts. Halak, 8-2-2 with a 1.79 goals-against average, has

never faced the Coyotes.

Phoenix (6-5-5) beat Calgary 5-4 on Friday to win back-to-back

games for the first time this season.

“This was a big character win for us,” forward Scottie Upshall

said. “We’ve had trouble putting wins together, so this was huge

for us.”

Defensive-minded forward Vernon Fiddler had gone without a point

in 14 straight games since recording an assist in the season opener

Oct. 9, but had his first career hat trick. Upshall and Lee

Stempniak each had a goal for the Coyotes, who had not scored more

than three a game while losing three of their previous four.

“Points are valuable, period,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.

“We need players to compete and battle hard. Winning in this league

is not all that easy.”

Despite his defensive focus, Fiddler has a goal and three

assists in his last four games versus St. Louis.

Stempniak, a former Blue, has a team-leading five goals but has

scored only two in his last 11 contests.

Ilya Bryzgalov could be in net after making 31 saves against the

Flames to improve to 5-2-5 with a 2.92 GAA. However, he’s given up

eight goals while losing two in a row to the Blues.

Backup Jason LaBarbera is 2-2-0 with a 2.80 GAA and one shutout

versus St. Louis.