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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 12:10 pm 
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Adversity is bringing out the best in the St. Louis Blues.

Faced with their toughest stretch of the 2016-17 schedule, the Blues are playing their best hockey of the season.

St. Louis' game against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday at Gila River Arena will represent its sixth in nine days, with a pair of back-to-back sets included. The Blues have played six of their eight March games on the road and yet they are 6-2-0 this month.

That run has helped St. Louis climb back into a solid playoff position as the Western Conference's final wild-card team. The Blues lead Los Angeles by four points for that spot, but they are also just two points behind third-place Nashville in the Central Division.

"For some guys, probably it's taxing," forward Scottie Upshall told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch when discussing the team's brutal schedule. "It's hard on the top players, but it's a chance for young players. We can't pull on the (Vladimir) Tarasenkos, the (Alex) Steens, the (Alex) Pietrangelos, (Jay) Bouwmeesters every night."

The Blues got a goal from center Zach Sanford, who came over in trade-deadline deal for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. They also got 19 saves from backup goalie Carter Hutton to complete a three-game season sweep of the San Jose Sharks on Thursday, their sixth consecutive win on the back half of back-to-back games.

"For me, the biggest thing was, we asked for a response and we got it," coach Mike Yeo said in reference to a 2-1 loss in Anaheim on Wednesday. "It was a close game but we weren't really happy with the way things went. We know we left something on the table. We asked for a response and the guys more than delivered."

St. Louis' special teams have been terrific this season. The Blues' power play is ranked fourth in the NHL (22.4 percent) and the penalty-killing unit is sixth (84.3).

The goaltending has been just as solid this month. Starter Jake Allen has a .952 save percentage in five March games and Hutton has a .939 save percentage in three March contests. Allen is expected to start against the Coyotes.

Blues left winger Dmitrij Jaskin (upper body) and center Jori Lehtera (upper body) are both considered day to day. Left winger Robby Fabbri (ACL) is out for the season.

For the Coyotes, captain Shane Doan (lower body), defenseman Kevin Connauton (upper body) and center Alexander Burmistrov (concussion) are all considered day to day. Doan has not been ruled out, but is doubtful to play against the Blues after suffering his injury late in the second period of Thursday's loss to Detroit.

Center Brad Richardson (broken right tibia and fibula) is on injured reserve.

Coach Dave Tippett has not decided whether Mike Smith or Louis Domingue will start in goal after the former struggled in a 5-4 shootout loss to Detroit on Thursday that ended Arizona's three-game winning streak.

While the Coyotes will not make the playoffs, Tippett is hoping to see continued growth from his young team, which has a chance to pass several clubs and climb out of 29th spot in the NHL standings.

"You want to do as well as you can and climbing in the standings is a barometer of how you play," Tippett said. "We want our young guys to push right to the end. We want our veteran guys to push right to the end. You've got a lot of players in that room playing for contracts, too, so there's a lot at stake for individuals."
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The St. Louis Blues began their five-game road trip with a tour through some of the Pacific Division's toughest teams - the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks - winning two of three games and collecting four of a possible six points.

Thanks in large part to winning six of their last seven games, the Blues now have a four-point lead on the Los Angeles Kings for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference playoff race. The club has 12 regular season games remaining and only two of those games are against teams currently in the playoff picture (March 25 vs. Calgary and April 2 vs. Nashville).

The Blues' remaining schedule includes three meetings with the last-place Colorado Avalanche (43 points) and three with the Arizona Coyotes, who are second-to-last in the Western Conference with 61 points.

So clinching a playoff spot should be pretty easy, right?

Not so fast.

Blues Head Coach Mike Yeo said his club would be foolish to think that things are going to be any easier down the stretch, especially tonight against the Coyotes (8 p.m. CT, FSMW, KMOX).

"It would be a huge mistake on our part to say we've gotten through the tough part of the schedule," Yeo said. "These are teams, that generally from March on, are .500 or better hockey teams because they play without fear, they play loose and those games could get dangerous. It's a different challenge. You have to be focused as far as how you're going to play with the puck. You can't turn it into a track meet or a game where it could go your way or could go the other way. You have to make sure you have the respect you need for your opponent and be prepared."

"Arizona beat LA (on the road) not too long ago, so we can't take anything for granted," added Blues forward Magnus Paajarvi. "We've still got to play desperation hockey because that's when we play our best, when everyone is on their toes.

"We've got 12 more games and nothing can be taken for granted."

The Coyotes have collected points in their last five games entering tonight's contest at Gila River Arena, with wins over the Avalanche, Kings and New Jersey Devils.

The Blues, meanwhile, have been awfully stingy. The club isn't give up many goals - just four in the three games thus far on the road trip - and they're not giving up many shots, either.

"Even when we're not winning games, we're not giving up a whole lot," said defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. "At this time of year, that's a big thing. If you're not giving up much, playing those tight games getting down to the stretch and into the playoffs, that's what it's all about. I think we're pretty comfortable in games like that."

So, as the Blues enter their final 12 games of the season, they're confident they won't be overlooking any teams - regardless of whether they're in the playoff picture or not.

"We need to be getting points just about every night to keep pace and keep ahead of teams behind us and try to catch Nashville," Bouwmeester said. "I don't think you can really focus on who you're playing, but it's about taking care of your own business. When it comes down to it, there are no bad teams anymore. Anybody can beat anybody."

Forwards
Jaden Schwartz - Paul Stastny - Vladimir Tarasenko
Alexander Steen - Patrik Berglund - David Perron
Zach Sanford - Ivan Barbashev - Magnus Paajarvi
Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves

Defense
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson - Colton Parayko
Carl Gunnarsson - Robert Bortuzzo

Goalie
Jake Allen
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The Blues' second-to-last stop on their five-game road trip comes in Arizona on Saturday night. Coming off a 4-1 win over the Sharks on Thursday, the Blues will face the Coyotes for the first time this season. In their last matchup last season, the Blues beat the Coyotes 5-2 on the strength of two goals from Kyle Brodziak. Overall, the Blues have won eight in a row and earned points in 11 straight games in this series (11-0-1). In the desert, St. Louis has come away victorious in seven consecutive trips, outscoring the Coyotes 35-12 overall in those games. The Blues haven't lost in Arizona since March 22, 2011.

What to Watch

The Blues' power play has been potent against the Coyotes in recent years. They have gone 12-for-29 (41.4 percent) over their last eight games overall, while they've managed 11 conversions on 24 attempts (45.8 percent) over their last seven games in Arizona. Coming into tonight, the Blues have gone 2-for-8 on the power play during their current road trip.

Milestones

David Perron - 2 shy of 100 goals as a Blue / 6 shy of 500 career PIM
Paul Stastny - 10 shy of 100 assists as a Blue / 8 shy of 600 career points
Kyle Brodziak - 4 shy of 400 career PIM
Carl Gunnarsson - 8 shy of 100 career assists
Jori Lehtera - 3 shy of 100 career points
Alexander Steen - 6 shy of 400 career PIM / 10 shy of 300 PIM as a Blue
Jay Bouwmeester - 6 shy of 100 PIM as a Blue
Robert Bortuzzo - 3 shy of 200 career games
Magnus Paajarvi - 4 shy of 300 career games
Alex Pietrangelo - 8 shy of 300 career points

Quick Hits

Alexander Steen became the 10th player in Blues history to reach 400 points after posting an assist in Thursday's win over the Sharks
Jake Allen is 5-0-0 with a 1.20 goals-against average and a .953 save-percentage (one shutout) in his career vs. the Coyotes
St. Louis has scored six goals in each of their last three trips to the desert, while eight of those 18 have come on the power play
Zach Sanford's goal on Thursday was the third of his career and the second that has proved to be a game winner.


This day in history:
1892 Stanley Cup is created by Canada's Governor General Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley
1945 Maurice Richard, Canadiens, becomes first NHL player to score 50 goals reaching the 50 goal mark in 50 games in a 4-2 win over Bruins. No one reached 50 goals again until the Canadians "Boom Boom" Geoffrion in 60-61 and 50 in 50 wasn't repeated until Mike Bossy in 1980-81.
1982 Joe Mullen becomes first player to score 20 goals in both minors and NHL in same season as Blues defeat Red Wings 7-4
1986 Gretzky becomes 50 goal scorer for 7th consecutive season in Oilers 6-1 win over Jets
1987 Mario Lemiuex scores a goal and adds 2 assists in Penguins 5-4 win over Blues becoming the 4th player in NHL history to reach 100 points in each of his first three seasons
1996 Gretzy, while with the Blues, scored his 1,000th professional hockey goal (NHL, WHA, regular season, and playoffs) joining Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull as the only players to score 1,000 goals.
2000 Ray Bourque becomes first defenseman to score 400 career goals as Avs defeat Red Wings 4-3
2001 Brett Hull scores his first hat trick for the Dallas Stars which is the 29th of his career breaking Bobby Hull's career record of 28

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 12:45 pm 
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I hate calling games must win, but I hate the idea of losing to the Coyotes down the stretch even more. This kind of game should be automatic. 2 points please.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 1:17 pm 
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The Blues are going to lose a couple of games to back-markers they normally would beat. With this being the 6th game in 9 days, this is the one of the non-playoff team games they might lose and wouldn't necessarily be considered a "bad" loss based on circumstances, as long as they are competitive. If they give up 4 to the Coyotes, though, it's a bad loss.

Interested in seeing how the team plays with Yeo behind the bench, the Blues playing a non-contending team, and the playoffs not necessarily being on the line. This is the kind of game the Blues have played before under Hitchcock when they seemingly just didn't show up.

Wouldn't be terribly upset if they don't win as long as they rebound vs the Avs. Would prefer winning both games, though.

The 2-day break following this game is the last 2 day break the Blues get for the rest of the regular season. Starting Tuesday, they play a minimum of every other day all the way to 4/8 and finishing with a back-to-back game on 4/9 @ home returning from Carolina. (11 games in 20 days).

:goblues:

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 2:26 pm 
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Glad to see Sanford is still in the lineup.

Blues 6
Coyotes 1

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 2:28 pm 
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Right. Not exactly a must-win in regards to points, but like cardsfan said, it would be a poor showing (and very typical of the Blues) to drop a game against the Yotes after beating Kings and Sharks.

Being 2 points behind Nashville and 4 ahead of LA, this is a perfect oppotunity to improve our playoff positioning. It would suck to not take advantage.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 5:53 pm 
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 7:25 pm 
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Pietrangelo scores with a long snap shot with only 3 seconds left in the 5 minute major!!! Blues lead 1-0!!!

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 7:31 pm 
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A breakaway 2 on 1 with Perron an Berglund, A slow one! Not surprising that they didn't score. But we have to complement Berglund after having 2 nice drives on net with scoring chances.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 7:44 pm 
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Nice drive by Barbashev! What a horrible change by The Yotes!

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 7:53 pm 
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Good period by The Blues. 16 SOG to a handful for Arizona. Keep it up. Nashville lost to The Hurricanes 2-3. The Blues can catch them with a win.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 8:11 pm 
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Upshall bangs it in past a Reaves screen!!! Blues lead 2-0!!!

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 8:14 pm 
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Schwartz is still snake bitten, knocking it off the post.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 8:23 pm 
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Who keeps saying that Pietrangelo can't put a decent shot on net? He could have 2 goals tonight, already. He should finish with about 13-14 goals, 35-39 assists, and over 50 points. Nothing to sneer at!

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 8:28 pm 
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Super save by Allen on a clear breakaway!!! Saves the 2-goal lead!!

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 8:30 pm 
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Steen had a goal there if he only could have lifted the puck.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 9:10 pm 
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Good kill!

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 9:23 pm 
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Schwartz should have scored on the drive after great feed from Stastny. He just shot it straight at Smith, with no move. :facepalm:

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 9:28 pm 
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The Blues should be leading 9-0 by now. :cry:

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 9:40 pm 
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Perron gets the empty-netter, to seal it!!! Blues in 3rd place in the Central!!!

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 9:41 pm 
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3rd Place!!!

Nice game!!

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