GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 23: David Perron #57 of the St. Louis Blues handles the puck under pressure from Lauri Korpikoski #28 of the Phoenix Coyotes during the NHL game at Jobing.com Arena on December 23, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. The Blues defeated the Coyotes 3-2. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Get ready for a Phoenix game who will be tough to deal with tonight. The Coyotes want to make the playoffs, and they want to start playing better hockey again to get there.
The Blues haven't been playing very well recently. They're just 1-2-2 in their last five games, and while the defense and goaltending has been top notch (witness the game against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday evening), the offense has been a bit meh. Sadly, the reason for that -- or at least part of the reason -- isn't coming back any time soon. Andy McDonald's still out, so the Blues will have to rely on the Mini-Mac, Jayden Schwartz, to keep some offense going. He didn't score Thursday night, but he did become the first teenaged rookie to score in his first two games since Eric Lindros, so I think that makes some of the pain go away for him.
Speaking of pain going away, Kris Russell is making his return to the line-up tonight after missing 14 games with a concussion. He'll have space in the line-up right away, since Roman Polak is being looked at for a bruised knee. Carlo Colaiacovo will be in and just fine, though Ian Cole is out as a precaution after taking a puck to the noggin Thursday night as well. The Blues have a nasty habit of getting healthy and hurt at the exact same time, but here's keeping your fingers crossed that they'll just get healthy around the start of the playoffs.
The Coyotes haven't played well against St. Louis this season, losing both of their match-ups against the Blues. Recently they haven't been able to put away points against the opponents that they need to. Thursday night they fell in a shoot-out to the San Jose Sharks, who are also clawing for playoff positioning. They're 4-2-4 at a time of the year when every point counts, and it must be frustrating for the team and the fans to watch this after a near perfect February. Did the 'Yotes peak too soon to sneak into the playoffs? They certainly won't play like it tonight; this game will be a tough one, and the Blues can't get complacent. Home ice advantage is too important.