Coyotes-Blues Preview

The St. Louis Blues did not end 2011 on a positive note, but

seeing plenty of home ice could help the club get off to a quick

start to 2012.

The Phoenix Coyotes are looking to get back into playoff

contention as a road-heavy portion of their schedule continues.

St. Louis looks to snap a season-high three-game losing streak

and extend its home point streak to eight when it faces Phoenix on

Tuesday night.

The Blues (21-12-5) have gone 15-5-5 since coach Ken Hitchcock

replaced the fired Davis Payne on Nov. 6, but they start the new

year on an 0-2-1 skid. St. Louis has scored three times during the

losing streak.

“We’ve got to learn how to battle back,” center Scott Nichol

said after a 3-0 loss at Detroit on Saturday, the Blues’ second

road defeat to the Red Wings in five days. “You’re going to be

behind a goal or two.”

St. Louis will be trying to avoid its first four-game slide

since Feb. 27-March 5, and a return to home ice could help. The

Blues, who have one of the league’s best home records at 14-3-2,

play 10 of their next 12 at the Scottrade Center.

The Coyotes (19-16-4) continue to battle through a rough stretch

of games, as they play six of eight on the road to open January

after not having more than two consecutive contests at home last

month.

“In 18 years as a pro I’ve never had a schedule this bad,”

defenseman Adrian Aucoin wrote on a blog on the Coyotes’ official

website.

Still, the club arrives in St. Louis just out of the final

playoff spot in the Western Conference following a 4-2 victory at

Minnesota on Saturday. Radim Vrbata snapped a five-game point

drought with a pair of third-period goals, while Ray Whitney and

Daymond Langkow also scored.

Recent call-up Curtis McElhinney made 28 saves in his first

start for the Coyotes, who snapped a season-high four-game skid

that started with a 3-2 home loss to St. Louis on Dec. 23.

“We’re a team where everybody has to contribute,” coach Dave

Tippett said.

McElhinney played well in his first start since April 9 with

Ottawa, but it’s uncertain if he or Jason LaBarbera will be in net

Tuesday.

Top goalie Mike Smith has been skating since Sunday and could

return after being placed on injured reserve last week with a groin

injury.

It’s also unclear if Brian Elliott will be in net for the Blues

after losing a second straight start for the first time this season

Saturday. Elliott, however, made 24 saves in the last matchup with

Phoenix and is 8-1-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average at home.

Jaroslav Halak is 6-2-2 with a 2.08 GAA at the Scottrade Center

after making 33 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss to Nashville on

Friday. The Blues had won a season-high six straight at home prior

to that.

If the Coyotes are going to hand St. Louis another defeat on

home ice, they may need to be better on the power play. Langkow’s

goal Saturday came after the club failed in 11 opportunities with

the man advantage over the previous four games, including all three

Dec. 23.

“It was huge for us to not only score but get some momentum on

our power play,” captain Shane Doan said. “The last couple games

it’s almost taken away our momentum.”

The Blues are last in the NHL on the power play at 12.4

percent.

St. Louis center Alex Steen is questionable after missing two

games with concussion-like symptoms. He scored against Phoenix last

month.

The Coyotes will be without forward Raffi Torres, who was

suspended two games without pay Monday for charging Wild defenseman

Nate Prosser on Saturday.