Stuck in a bit of a rough stretch, the St. Louis Blues have not
The Blues look to avoid a third straight loss while trying to
continue their road success against the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday
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
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
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.