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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Friday, December 31st (All times eastern)

Phoenix Coyotes (17-12-7) at St. Louis Blues (19-12-5), 8:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The St. Louis Blues will try to remain undefeated on their current homestand with a fifth straight victory as they host a Phoenix Coyotes club tonight at Scottrade Center that finally broke out of prolonged scoring slump last time out.

The Blues have won the first three contests of a five-game homestand to improve to 13-4-2 as the host this season. After Jaroslav Halak notched 32 saves in a shutout of the Predators on Sunday, head coach Davis Payne made a surprise move prior to Tuesday's game versus the Blackhawks by naming Ty Conklin the starter.

Payne's move paid off as Conklin made 25 saves in a 3-1 victory.

"Ty made the saves when he needed to and I thought everything was timely," said Brad Boyes, who had the go-ahead goal early in the third period.

Even Conklin, who had allowed seven goals in his previous outing versus Chicago on Nov. 30, was taken by surprise.

"Yeah, I was. Certainly, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't. But I was glad to get in there," said Conklin before adding how he was made aware of the start.

"[Payne] said, 'You're playing (Tuesday)' and I said 'Okay.' Then I asked him, 'I'm playing?' He said 'Yes' and I had to ask him again because I was a little surprised and he said 'You sound surprised' and I was," Conklin admitted.

Conklin is just 1-3-0 with a 3.27 goals-against average in his career versus the Coyotes, so Halak is likely to face them for the first time in his career tonight.

Whoever gets the call in net will be facing a confident Coyotes club that is coming off Wednesday's 6-3 victory over the Kings. Phoenix had lost three of four prior to the win, netting just a single goal in each outing.

Shane Doan had a pair of goals, Scottie Upshall netted his team-leading ninth goal to go along with two assists and Keith Yandle ended with three assists to match a career high. Ray Whitney also had a goal and an assist and Brett MacLean scored in his NHL debut.

"It was nice to get some goals out there today, considering what we had done the previous couple of games," said Doan. "Especially against LA when they kept coming back and we were able to respond."

Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 23 shots for the Coyotes, who played without Martin Hanzal (upper body) and Radim Vrbata (lower body). Hanzal was hurt in Tuesday's game versus the Ducks, while Vrbata has sat out three in a row.

Bryzgalov is 5-7-1 with a 2.94 GAA versus the Blues, but did record 35 saves in a 5-3 home victory over the team on Nov. 13. Whitney led the offense with his fourth-career hat trick and matched a season high with five points first done on Feb. 8, 2007 while with Carolina.

The victory was just the Coyotes' third in their last nine versus the Blues, who have lost seven of their last 10 in Phoenix.

12/31 11:15:37 ET


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