Blues aim to rebound against struggling Coyotes
(SportsNetwork.com) - The St. Louis Blues haven't let the loss of Alexander Steen slow them down.
With the winger nearing a possible return, the Blues aim to rebound from their first regulation loss in nearly a month as they host the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday night.
The Blues have been without their leading scorer in Steen since he suffered a concussion on Dec. 21 versus the Edmonton Oilers and he still leads the club with 24 goals and 38 points despite missing the past nine games.
St. Louis lost a shootout decision to Calgary in its first game without Steen, but then ripped off a season-high seven straight wins before having that run halted with Friday's loss in Vancouver.
Steen, meanwhile, was able to fully participate in practice on Monday for the first time since his injury, though there is still no timetable for his return.
"He's been skating on his own so he joins the team," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told his club's official website. "As time moves forward we'll see when he's ready to play. It's a good sign. He had good energy. I think the guys were real happy to have him back on the ice.
"I don't think you want to read anything into it though until he's declared a player. You could go through this for days; you could go through this for weeks. You don't really know. It's all kind of how he feels."
Even without Steen, the Blues potted five or more goals in four straight games to begin January, helping the club post its longest winning streak since a nine-game run in 2002.
St. Louis' offense finally went cold on Friday in the 2-1 loss to the Canucks, with Alex Pietrangelo netting the lone Blues tally and Brian Elliott, who had won seven starts in a row, making 20 saves.
"We created some chances. He made some good saves, we couldn't bury a couple and the difference is a one-goal loss on the road," said Blues forward David Backes.
The setback was St. Louis' first in regulation over the past 11 games (9-1-1) since a setback to San Jose on Dec. 17.
Center Maxim Lapierre suffered a lower-body injury versus the Canucks and did not practice on Monday, though defenseman Roman Polak did and could play tonight after missing the last 10 contests with a partially fractured left ankle.
The Coyotes, meanwhile, have struggled to three straight losses and five in their last six. They were in action last night, dropping a 5-1 road loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
Defenseman Oliver-Ekman Larsson scored on the power play at 12:16 of the first period to get Phoenix on the board, but Winnipeg's Olli Jokinen countered just 36 seconds later to begin the Jets' string of five unanswered tallies.
Mike Smith allowed all five goals on 38 shots in losing his sixth decision in a row. The Phoenix netminder has not won since Dec. 21.
"You can start anywhere and we have to show improvement," said Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett. "Our goalies have to do better, our defense has to be better and our top forwards have to do better; it's as simple as that."
The quick turnaround might not be good news for the Coyotes, who are 3-7-4 in their last 14 games. That is because forward Mike Ribeiro left last night's game with a lower-body injury and he ranks tied for second on the club with 32 points off 11 goals and 21 assists.
The Coyotes have lost six of their last eight versus the Blues, but did snap a three-game series losing streak with a 3-2 overtime victory in St. Louis on Nov. 12 in the first meeting between the clubs this season.
Ekman-Larsson scored 56 seconds into overtime and Smith made 37 saves.
Lapierre and Polak both scored for the Blues and Jaroslav Halak made 16 saves.
Halak will start tonight and is 2-2-1 with a 2.61 goals against average in his career versus the Coyotes.
Smith improved to 4-5-0 with a 3.21 GAA in nine meetings with the Blues, while backup Thomas Greiss has split two previous starts against them with a 2.52 GAA.
Greiss yielded four goals on 23 shots in 31 minutes of work in his last start for the Coyotes, a loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.
01/14 11:17:12 ET