The St. Louis Blues will seek a faster start in their rematch against the visiting Arizona Coyotes on Thursday.
The Blues fell behind the Coyotes 1-0 Tuesday at Enterprise Center before rallying for a 4-3 victory. The Coyotes outshot St. Louis 8-1 in the first seven minutes.
“We were just a step behind,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “We just didn’t get there on time to break a play up or on the forecheck; we were late, and they were breaking out and coming at us with speed. We just didn’t close any plays out in the D zone, so it was just a matter of playing quicker and playing harder.”
Berube credited forwards Brayden Schenn and Kyle Clifford for making big hits that got the West Division-leading Blues rolling toward their fourth consecutive victory.
“We had some guys banging bodies around after that; I thought it changed the momentum of the game,” Berube said. “Then I thought we played pretty good after that.”
The Blues went 0-for-5 on the power play, but Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said his team put too much strain on his diminished penalty-killing unit by taking penalties.
“What was it, five power plays?” Tocchet said. “That’s 10 minutes. We’ve got four guys killing. It’s hard, it’s too hard. It just takes the rhythm. It takes a lot of different things out. Some guys get gassed; some guys sit on the bench for a little bit. It takes the rhythm out.”
The injury-depleted Coyotes have lost five of their past seven games. They opened their six-game road trip on Tuesday without forwards Christian Fischer and Lawson Crouse as well as defensemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Ilya Lyubushkin due to various ailments.
“We knew we were shorthanded with Fisch and Crouser out, OEL and Lyubushkin,” Tocchet said. “Those are all heavy guys. That’s a heavy team, so you need to make sure you stay sticky on top of those guys. For the most part, I liked a lot of our game, especially early on, but then we took some of those penalties.”
Christian Dvorak scored twice against the Blues Tuesday by driving to the net. Nick Schmaltz also scored a late goal at the net.
But the Coyotes hope to be more consistent with their 5-on-5 play Thursday.
“We definitely had some good spurts throughout the game, clean breakouts, getting pucks deep, hard on the forecheck, moving the puck around and getting the puck to the net and getting bodies to the net,” Dvorak said. “We’ve got to make sure we do that a little more here on Thursday.”
The Blues are expected to start Jordan Binnington (6-1-1, 2.55 goals-against average) again in goal. He is 3-1-1 with a 1.38 GAA and a .937 save percentage in five career starts against Arizona.
The Coyotes will play either Darcy Kuemper (2-5-1, 2.65 GAA) or the recently activated Antti Raanta (1-0, 3.01 GAA). Last season Raanta stopped 83 of 85 shots in his two starts against the Blues.
–Field Level Media