Blues face Coyotes hoping to improve playoff chances - The Hockey News on Sports Illustrated

Blues face Coyotes hoping to improve playoff chances

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By Anthony Giornalista

Stats Senior Writer

St. Louis (38-31-10) at Phoenix (34-38-7),

GLENDALE, Arizona (AP) -- Poor play against lowly Phoenix

Coyotes teams has hurt St. Louis' playoff chances in recent

years. The Blues have had little trouble in this season's

series.

The surging Blues, in the hunt for the final postseason spot in

the Western Conference, look to sweep the Coyotes for the first

time in their history Tuesday night.

A 5-4 overtime loss to Dallas on Saturday night pushed St.

Louis' point total to 86, putting it in a tie with Nashville for

eighth place in the West. Both teams have three games remaining,

but the Predators hold the tiebreaker over the Blues (38-31-10)

with one more victory.

Nashville hosts Chicago on Tuesday.

St. Louis will face Columbus at home Friday night before

traveling to Colorado on Sunday for its regular-season finale.

"It's almost a Game 7 situation every game we play right now,"

Blues center Keith Tkachuk said.

St. Louis is trying to make the postseason for the first time

since 2004, a drought due in part to its poor play versus

Phoenix (34-38-7). In the three seasons prior to 2008-09, the

Blues went 2-8-2 against Coyotes clubs that never finished with

more than 83 points.

This season, St. Louis is 3-0-0 versus Phoenix, giving it a

chance for its first series sweep of a franchise that entered

the league as the Winnipeg Jets in 1979.

The Blues, concluding a five-game road trip, are 6-1-1 since

losing two straight.

St. Louis coach Andy Murray, though, is concerned with his

team's defensive play, as the Blues have allowed nine goals in

the last two games. Against the Stars, they gave up five goals

for the first time since a 5-2 loss to Detroit on March 14.

"When you score four goals on the road you should come away with

two points," Murray said. "Overall our attention to defensive

detail wasn't what we needed it to be."

St. Louis' David Backes remained hot, scoring his 31st goal

after getting four in a 5-4 win over the Red Wings on Thursday

night. The third-year forward has six goals and one assist

during the Blues' current trip.

He should have a good chance to continue his strong play against

the Coyotes, who are coming off one of their worst defensive

games of the season.

Phoenix fell 6-1 to Los Angeles on Saturday night, ending its

three-game winning streak.

The loss was the first for rookie goaltender Al Montoya, who

beat Colorado 3-0 on Wednesday night in his NHL debut and

defeated the Kings 2-1 the following evening. Montoya, 24, was

the sixth overall pick in the 2004 draft.

He got little help from his teammates offensively Saturday.

Shane Doan scored the only goal for Phoenix, giving him a

career-high 31 on the season. The veteran winger's previous high

was 30 in 2005-06.

"You always want to be trying to get better and improve, and

obviously I had never gotten 31 before so it's good to get that

one," Doan said. "... I would definitely take 21 goals (instead)

and be in the playoffs than 31 and out."

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