STL-PHX: Playoff Battle Continues For Blues and Coyotes.

Michael WagenknechtContributor IFebruary 28, 2009

With 21 games left in the season, the St. Louis Blues and Phoenix will renew acquaintances for the second time in a week in another key game in the playoff push.

On Tuesday, the Blues defeated the Coyotes 2-1 on a lucky bounce and a timely short handed goal to pull within five points of a playoff spot—at the time. With a win on Thursday against Dallas, the Blues are now three points out of a spot.

On Tuesday night, David Perron was given a gift when his dump-in bounced in on Illya Bryzgalov and eluded the net-minder to tie the score at one. It was Perron's first goal in five games against Phoenix and it provided the spark the team needed.

Jay McClement's shorthanded goal in the second proved to be the difference, as the Blues eked out the win in an otherwise lackluster effort.

The Blues have not scored many goals, especially power-play goals, over the last few games and will need their stars to step up. In the last five games the Blues' power play is one for 13, and that one goal came against Columbus ten days ago.

With Andy McDonald back in the line-up the power play needs to start kicking back into shape. The penalty kill, on the other hand, has been spectacular.

In the same five games the penalty kill has negated 16 of 17 power plays against, including 16 straight, while also collecting two short-handed goals. The Blues' penalty kill sits at eighth in the entire league at 83 percent, and could very well creep into the top five by the end of the season.

Chris Mason also has to continue his spectacular play tonight. Mason has won three of his last five games and has allowed only four goals in his last four games. Mason is 3-2-1 in his career against Phoenix, but has a slightly low .884 save percentage. Lately though, he has shown that he can play with just about any goalie in the league.

While the Blues are still fighting for a playoff spot, it seems the Coyotes are doing everything in their power to lose out on the playoffs. Phoenix has lost five of seven and after being snake-bitten by the Blues on Tuesday, they went to Nashville and laid another egg, losing 4-1.

Illya Bryzgalov has been pretty outstanding in goal, but he receives almost no goal support, which has led to this recent string of losses.

All-Star Shane Doan is still putting up big numbers (23 goals and 31 assists), players such as Olli Jokinen are sitting on their haunches, just waiting out the trade deadline. Jokinen's name has come up in trade rumors and it seems to be affecting him somewhat. Jokinen has scored three goals in twelve games, and those three goals all came in one game against the Kings.

The Blues need to come out and pepper Bryzgalov early and often, and they need to find a way to bury this team early. With points at a premium now this has to be a two point game only.

My prediction: Blues 4 Phoenix 1

Three Stars:

1. Chris Mason

2. Andy McDonald

3. Shane Doan


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