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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Tuesday, March 2nd (All times eastern)

St. Louis Blues (28-25-9) at Phoenix Coyotes (37-21-5), 9 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Phoenix Coyotes will continue the chase of their first playoff appearance in eight years tonight when they host the St. Louis Blues at Jobing.com Arena.

The Coyotes won eight of their final 11 games before the Olympic break and own a one-point lead over the Kings for the fourth spot in the Western Conference. Though Phoenix has already matched its point total from last year with 79, it trails first-place San Jose by 10 points in the Pacific Division.

"We've earned a lot of points in the standings, but I don't think we've played as well as we can yet," head coach Dave Tippett told the Coyotes' Web site. "We're going to strive to get better and better...We've still got a long ways to go to get ourselves to where we feel like we're going to be a strong playoff team.

"We played hard to get ourselves in a playoff position before the break, now this last push is very important for us. We have to continue to play well."

The Coyotes play their next three games at home and have won six of their last eight as the host. They did get shutout by the Stars at home in their final game before the break on February 13.

Petr Prucha left that game on a stretcher after getting hit hard into the boards by Dallas' James Neal, but he could return to action tonight. He has 11 goals and 20 points on the season.

The Blues, meanwhile, won their last three games before the break, including a pair a shootout victories, and will try tonight to match their season-best four-game winning streak accomplished from January 9-16. They are five points back of a playoff spot in the West.

St. Louis will be without both Keith Tkachuk and Cam Janssen for this contest. Tkachuk, who has 12 goals and 16 assists this year, had surgery on his left pinky finger on Friday and is expected to miss 10 days of action, while Janssen was given a five-game suspension over the break for delivering a late hit to the head of Washington forward Matt Bradley in a 4-3 shootout win on February 13.

"It's unfortunate," Blues president John Davidson told NHL.com of Janssen's suspension. "Cam has a feel for what happened and he did talk directly to the player that he hit. I don't think [Janssen] plays the game in a malicious way, but he plays it hard and the timing was late."

The Blues will have David Backes and Erik Johnson, who were both a member of the silver-winning Team USA squad that lost to Canada in overtime on Sunday.

Phoenix is 2-0-1 versus St. Louis this year after getting swept in the four- game series a season ago. The Coyotes have won seven of the last 11 played at home in the series.

Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has been in net for all three games this year, posting a 32-save shutout in St. Louis on October 29. He is 4-6-1 with a 2.61 goals-against average lifetime versus the Blues.

Chris Mason should counter in net for St. Louis and he is 1-0-1 in two meetings with Phoenix this year as well as 6-2-2 with a 2.47 GAA versus the club lifetime. Mason made 34 saves in a 3-2 overtime win at home on November 19, with Johnson scoring 17 seconds into OT for the Blues.

03/02 10:43:24 ET


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