By Dave Vest
GLENDALE – The Coyotes will play their first post-Olympics game tonight when they host the St. Louis Blues at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (37-21-5) will enter the game having lost two consecutive games. Head Coach Dave Tippett said the players are eager to play a game and end the mini-slump.
"When you have a break like this there are two sides of it," Tippett said. "The break is very nice to get a little bit of rest but then the players get restless. So, you get back to practice and they've got lots of energy at practice but then you have four or five days of practice and they don't like practice anymore. So, the next step is a game, and that's where we're at."
Ilya Bryzgalov, who played in two Olympic games for Russia, will start in goal tonight. Bryzgalov already has won 32 games this season and is one win shy of tying the franchise record for victories in a season held by three players, including Coyotes Goaltending Coach Sean Burke.
Asked if he was ready to go, mentally and physically, after taking part in the Olympics, Bryzgalov said: "I'm OK. I've got the summertime to get my rest. Now is the time to take care of business."
The Coyotes will enter the game in fourth place in the Western Conference standings with 19 games to play.
St. Louis (28-25-9) got back into playoff contention by winning its last three games before the break for the Olympics. The Blues will enter tonight's game in 12th place in the Western Conference standings but just five points behind eighth-place Detroit.
St. Louis has proven it can win games on the road. Sixteen of its 28 victories have come away from the Scottrade Center.
The Blues will play minus forward Keith Tkachuk (injured finger) and Cam Janssen (suspension). Janssen received a five-game suspension from the NHL last week for his Feb. 13 hit to the head on Matt Bradley of the Washington Capitals.
"It's unfortunate," Blues President John Davidson told reporters. "Cam has a feel for what happened and he did talk directly to the player that he hit. I don't think (Janssen) plays the game in a malicious way, but he plays it hard and the timing was late."
Coyotes defenseman Sami Lepisto averaged 15:37 of ice time in six Olympic games. He and his Finnish teammates won the bronze medal.
Blues goalie Chris Mason won three straight games prior to the Olympic break, allowing just six goals on 106 shots in that span.
Tonight's game will be Phoenix's last game before the NHL trade deadline on Wednesday at 1 p.m. (Arizona time). General Manager Don Maloney has said he would like to add depth to the blue line and perhaps a scorer via trades, but only if the prices are right.
With 19 games to play, the Coyotes are just six victories shy of tying the franchise mark for wins in a season (43) set in 1984-85 when the team was based in Winnipeg.
Phoenix Olympians Sami Lepisto (Finland), Ilya Bryzgalov (Russia) and Zbynek Michalek (Czech Republic) will be officially congratulated during the game.