By Dave Vest The Coyotes will try to climb into first place in the Pacific Division standings tonight when they play the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center. The puck drops at 4:30 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (40-27-13), which on Thursday clinched a third consecutive berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, will enter the game in third place in the division standings, one point behind Los Angeles and San Jose. The Kings and Sharks are idle on Friday.
The Coyotes can capture their first division title in franchise history if they can beat St. Louis today and Minnesota on Saturday in their regular-season finale.
"Our players have worked hard all season and we are happy to be in the playoffs but our season isn't done yet," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "We have two important games left and we need to continue to work hard and get better for the postseason."
This game is the fourth and final game between these teams this season. The Blues won the first three and outscored the Coyotes 11-3 in those matchups.
Mike Smith will start in goal for the Coyotes vs. the Blues. Smith has notched three consecutive shutouts and has made 155 consecutive saves, which is an NHL high since saves have been kept as a stat starting in 1976-77.
"What’s gone on in the past is done now," Smith said after Thursday's practice. "I’m just looking forward to tomorrow night... We can win the division, and we're all aware of that. So, it's all about winning and not shutouts.”
► Click here to watch Coyotes Goaltending Coach Sean Burke and others discuss Smith's stingy netminding down the stretch.
Photo by Getty Images.
St. Louis (48-21-11), which can earn the Western Conference's top seed with a win over Phoenix and another victory Saturday at Dallas, will enter the game looking to snap a season-high three-game winless skid (0-1-2).
The Blues lead the NHL with a 30-5-5 record at home.
Brian Elliott is expected to start in goal tonight as the Blues try to sweep the season series with the Coyotes for the first time since 2008-09. Elliott is 3-1-0 with a 1.77 goals-against average in four career starts vs. Phoenix.
The Blues are killing penalties well down the stretch. St. Louis has allowed just five power-play goals in the last 91 attempts by opponents. Thus, the team's season percentage has jumped from 80.7 percent (23rd in the League) to 85.3 percent (7th in the League) during the streak.
Coyotes goalie Mike Smith is riding a career-high 219:59 shutout sequence, which is the second-longest in franchise history.
Blues left wing David Perron has scored one goal in each of the past four games and ranks second on the team with 20.
Forward Radim Vrbata has scored 33 goals this season - the most by a Coyotes player since Jeremy Roenick scored 34 in 1999-2000.
Coyotes goalie Mike Smith is 18-5-2 when getting at least two days off between starts, as will be the case for this game.
Tonight's game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network and on XTRA Sports 910 AM at 4:30 p.m. For in-game updates via Twitter, follow @coyotesgameday.