Phoenix Coyotes At St. Louis Blues: 2012 Begins With A Test

ST. LOUIS MO - JANUARY 10: Matt D'Agostini #36 of the St. Louis Blues scores a goal against Jason LaBarbera #1 of the Phoenix Coyotes at the Scottrade Center on January 10 2011 in St. Louis Missouri. The Coyotes beat the Blues 4-3. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The Blues're starting off 2012 at home in a tilt against the Phoenix Coyotes. Can more than the top line produce tonight?

The Blues did not end 2011 on the best note, which is unfortunate considering what a solid first half of the season they had. They lost three games in a row - two to Detroit - to close out the year, getting one point in a shootout loss to the Nashville Predators. During those three games, they scored three goals. There's a problem going on here offensively, and it doesn't help that Alex Steen's still sitting with concussion-like symptoms. The top line is still carrying the load, which is not a recipe for success. A balanced scoring attack is always helpful, and when you have top power-forwards like Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart more than invisible on the ice you won't win many games.

The games that you do win will be based on defense. Unfortunately here too the Blues have hit a hiccup. Kris Russell, who has been playing very well since his arrival in St. Louis from the Columbus Blue Jackets, injured himself in last Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Wings. Ian Cole finally got to get back on the ice, and in his second game back walloped Justin Abdelkader at center ice. The hit, which was high, earned Cole a three game suspension. Needless to say, the Blues are unhappy about that. They called up Cade Fairchild from the Peoria Rivermen, but the suspension still stings for the team. Said Ken Hitchcock (via Norm Sanders):

"I'm still confused," he said. "There's hits to the head and then there's other hits to the head. Some get called and some don't, so I'm confused."

Join the club.

The Blues can't sit and pout over a suspension that they take issue with. They're facing a Phoenix Coyotes team that's sitting right outside of the playoff bubble and who would love to get back in. The Blues're back at home, where they excel and are playing 12 of their next 14 games, while the Coyotes are going to work hard to get points on the road.

After two straight losses to Detroit, Brian Elliott will be sitting tonight in favor of Jaroslav Halak. Halak was masterful in the 2-1 shootout loss against the Predators on Thursday night, stopping 34 shots on net in a game that should've gone into the win column. He hasn't been amazing against the Phoenix Coyotes, with a 1-2-0 record and a 3.03 GAA, but so far this season he's won six games at Scottrade and has a 2.08 GAA at home.

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