PREVIEW: Coyotes, St. Louis Blues renew acquaintances in Arizona

By Field Level Media
Feb 2, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Arizona Coyotes center Christian Dvorak (18) is congratulated by center Barrett Hayton (29) and right wing Conor Garland (83) after scoring during the first period against the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Coyotes will try to maintain their edge over St. Louis when they host the Blues on Friday night.

The Coyotes won their three last three games against the Blues during their four-game set in St. Louis. Now they must face the Blues three times during a four-day span at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz.

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This unusual scheduling — seven consecutive games between West Division rivals — was due to COVID-19 postponements with other teams.

“They’re a good hockey team over there,” Coyotes forward Christian Dvorak said after the Coyotes earned a 4-3 shootout victory over the Blues Monday night. “To get three out of four on the road feels good. We can’t get too high here. We’re playing them (three) more times at home. We need to get some rest here and be ready.”

After winning just two of their first seven games this season, the Coyotes have won four of their last five games.

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During that span Dvorak (six goals, two assists), Conor Garland (three goals, four assists), Nick Schmaltz (two goals, four assists) and Clayton Keller (two goals, three assists) drove their offense.

“We’re coming up with key moments,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said. “Key moment goals. That’s what hockey’s all about, making those key moments count. Sometimes you’re on the right side of it, sometimes you’re not. We’ve had some good key moments, especially the last three games.”

The Blues carried a four-game winning streak into their second home game against the Coyotes. Then they earned just a shootout point during their next three games against them.

“They’re a relentless team,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “I think they’ve got real good team speed. And they don’t give you any time. There’s some players that are hard to control in the D-zone. They’re quick and they cut back and they’re competitive guys.”

With Robert Thomas sidlelined by a broken thumb, Berube moved checkers Ivan Barbashev and Oskar Sundqvist into scoring-line roles and added physical winger Mackenzie MacEachern to Monday’s lineup.

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The Blues looked more like their old selves as a result. They put 43 shots on goal at one end and blocked 28 at the other. They picked up their physical play and recorded 21 hits.

Captain Ryan O’Reilly scored two goals and added an assist in that game, giving him six points in his last five games. David Perron has five points in his last five games.

But the Blues’ special teams remain problematic. They converted just 1-of-12 power-play opportunities in their three consecutive losses.

Meanwhile the Coyotes went 4-for-13 with the man advantage during that span.

“We just gotta be sharper in some areas,” Berube said. “Obviously our special teams have gotta be better against them. We know we’re playing a good hockey team over there. I don’t think we’ve taken ‘em lightly. I just think that there’s been areas of the game where they’ve been better than us.”

–Field Level Media