The St. Louis Blues will host the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night in a key matchup in the tightening Western Conference playoff race.
The Blues snapped a five-game winless streak (0-3-2) by handling the New Jersey Devils 3-0 on home ice on Tuesday. That was just their third victory in the past13 games (3-7-3), but they are tied with the Dallas Stars for the Central Division lead with 76 points.
The Coyotes are just 5-9-4 since Jan. 9, yet they remain in a five-team scramble in the Pacific Division. All five clubs are within three points of the division lead.
Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet noted that the Stars, who beat Arizona 3-2 in Dallas on Wednesday, and the Blues present nearly identical challenges in the back-to-back games.
"These are two teams who are heavily favored to go far, both similar in the way they play, both stingy defensively," he said. "Great goalies, stingy defense, they've got some defensemen that are mobile, and St. Louis is a grinding team that has won a Stanley Cup because they smother you. We have to play our style."
They did that in Dallas, outshooting the Stars 41-33 in a hard-hitting game, but fell short.
The Blues may test their new blue-line look against the Coyotes. After losing Jay Bouwmeester to a cardiac emergency last week, the Blues acquired Marco Scandella from the Montreal Canadiens and sent rookie Niko Mikkola back to the AHL for more seasoning.
Scandella practiced with the Blues on Wednesday and began his acclimation.
"He's ready to go," St. Louis coach Craig Berube said. "We got him for a reason, so we'll get him right in there and play him."
During his time playing for the Minnesota Wild (2010-17), Scandella became quite familiar with the Blues.
"I'm absolutely excited to come to St. Louis," Scandella said. "Stanley Cup champs, what a city, what an organization. I played two playoff series against this team, a tenacious, hard-working team. To bring my energy, bring my game to this team, it's going to be really exciting for me."
Bouwmeester played with Colton Parayko on the team's shutdown defensive pairing before collapsing on the team's bench during a game in Anaheim.
Scandella could see some time on the top pairing now that Bouwmeester is on long-term injured reserve and facing an uncertain hockey future.
"That can be an option for sure," Berube said. "Getting him in that area and that spot, and getting that shutdown role."
The Coyotes have beaten the Blues in their previous two meetings this season, 3-2 in a shootout Nov. 12 in St. Louis and 3-1 on Dec. 31 in Glendale, Ariz. Darcy Kuemper won the first game in goal for Arizona, Antti Raanta won the second, and Conor Garland scored a goal in each game.
Since Adin Hill started in goal for Arizona on Wednesday night, Raanta likely will be the choice against the Blues. Raanta is 4-2-1 this month with a 1.85 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage.
Jordan Binnington and Jake Allen split the first two games against the Coyotes in goal. Binnington is coming off a 17-save shutout against New Jersey, so he could get the call against Arizona.
--Field Level Media