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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, October 4th (All times eastern)

St. Louis Blues (0-0-0) at Phoenix Coyotes (0-0-0), 10 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The St. Louis Blues begin their quest to get back to the postseason tonight when they travel to Phoenix and Jobing.com Arena to battle the Coyotes in the season opener for both clubs.

St. Louis was a regular in the playoffs from 1980-2004, but came out of the lockout lacking talent from years past and put together the NHL's worst record in 2005-06.

However, the club made strides last year after firing head coach Mike Kitchen and replacing him with Andy Murray. Murray got the most out of his team, leading the Blues to a 27-18-9 mark after taking over and even had his club in the playoff hunt for a while before finishing 10th in the Western Conference.

The Blues added veterans to its young roster this offseason, none with more talent than new Blue Paul Kariya. Kariya posted 85 and 76 points, respectively, over his last two seasons with Nashville and gives St. Louis an instant scoring stretch.

Kariya will team with veterans Keith Tkachuk and Doug Weight -- a pair of players dealt away at the trade deadline over the past two years -- who are both in the mix again for this year. Those players will help lend guidance to youngsters Jay McClement, David Perron and Lee Stempniak.

The strength of the Blues this season should be the club's defensive corps, which has a solid mix of veteran and young players. At one end of that spectrum is 19-year-old Erik Johnson, the No. 1 overall pick in 2006, while Eric Brewer and Barret Jackman are two of the best defensemen on the roster.

However, the club will be without defender Jay McKee, who will miss 4-6 weeks after fracturing the metatarsal in his right foot.

Manny Legace will try to rebound from arthroscopic knee surgery last year that cut his season short after a 23-15-5 record and 2.59 goals-against average.

The injury bug also bit the Blues at goaltender last season, as No. 1 netminder Manny Legace had his season cut short due to arthroscopic knee surgery.

Legace played well when healthy last year, posting a 23-15-5 record, .907 save percentage and 2.59 goals against average. This will be the 34-year-old backstop's second season in St. Louis after he signed as a free agent before the 2006-07 campaign.

The Coyotes will try to put a miserable 2006-07 season behind them early this year. The club went just 31-46-5 under legendary player and current head coach Wayne Gretzky.

Gretzky, though, can't lace up the skates and put the puck in the net himself, as the Coyotes continue to rebuild. That team continues to be constructed around captain Shane Doan, a well-rounded player who led the club with 55 points (27 goals, 28 assists) last year.

Doan's main assistance will hopefully come from Steve Reinprecht (9g, 24a), who struggled to stay healthy last year, as well as free-agent pickup Mike York (10g, 11a).

Phoenix let a couple of veterans past their prime leave this offseason in center Jeremy Roenick and goaltender Curtis Joseph. With Joseph gone, David Aebischer and Mikael Tellqvist appear as if they will battle this season for the starting goaltender job. Aebischer went 13-12-3 with a 3.17 GAA in 32 games (27 starts) with the Canadiens last year, while Tellqvist played 30 games with Phoenix last year after being acquired in a trade with Toronto. He posted a 11-12-3 record last season and also sported poor numbers in save percentage (.885) and GAA (3.35).

The Coyotes leader on defense will once again be Ed Jovanovski, a three-time All-Star, who had a disappointing season in 2006-07. He battled injury and played in just 54 contests. However, "Jovo" did produce when he was in the lineup as he notched 11 goals and 18 assists.

The Coyotes won three of four versus the Blues last year and have won six of the last eight meetings between the clubs.

10/04 10:41:40 ET


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