Blues host Coyotes
By MATT BECKER, STATS Senior Writer
The Phoenix Coyotes are proving to be far more organized on the ice than the financially troubled organization is off it.
After winning another game by spreading the scoring around, the Coyotes seek a sixth victory in eight contests when they visit the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.
This season has gotten off to a rocky start for the Phoenix organization with owner Jerry Moyes agreeing to sell the bankrupt franchise to the NHL on Monday, but the team is coming together come game time.
The Coyotes (7-4-0), off to their best start since opening the 2000-01 season 9-1 with two ties, defeated Columbus 4-1 on Wednesday for their fifth win in seven games.
Martin Hanzal, Jim Vandermeer, Zbynek Michalek and Robert Lang had goals and four others contributed assists for the Coyotes. Keith Yandle was the only Phoenix player with more than one point, adding three assists.
"That's where we're going to be all year," coach Dave Tippett said. "It was a good, solid group effort. We have to continue to build on that. We want consistency of that - not up and down - and that's what we're looking for."
In the Coyotes' 3-2 overtime win over the Blues on Oct. 15, Shane Doan and Scottie Upshall each scored in regulation for Phoenix with Ed Jovanovski adding the game winner.
While the Coyotes are getting steady scoring from their offense, they've also been receiving solid play from goaltenders Jason LaBarbera and Ilya Bryzgalov, who have yielded a Western Conference-low 23 goals.
LaBarbera made his first start in almost three weeks Wednesday and looked sharp in turning aside 31 shots.
Bryzgalov, who is 6-3-0 with a 1.97 goals-against average and two shutouts on the season, made 22 saves against the Blues two weeks ago, snapping the Coyotes' four-game losing streak in the series.
St. Louis (5-4-1), coming off a 5-2 victory over Carolina on Wednesday, is trying to win consecutive games for the first time since starting the season with back-to-back victories.
The Blues jumped out to a 3-0 lead 16 minutes into the game after totaling just three first-period goals in their previous seven contests. They had 11 shots on goal in the first 20 minutes but were outshot 22-7 the rest of the way.
"I think it's just working harder than the other team," said St. Louis left wing David Perron, who had two goals. "Even though we got outshot, the two points is what we needed to get. We just have to keep playing like that."
The Blues also need goalie Chris Mason to continue his solid play.
Mason made 34 saves Wednesday and has won his last two games after recording a 3.25 GAA in losing his previous four. He stopped 31 shots in the loss in Phoenix two weeks ago.
"He's gotten off to a great start, and he's our best player every night," Perron said. "We've got to have him like that all year."