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Coyotes-Blues Preview

AP - Sports

The St. Louis Blues did not end 2011 on a positive note, but seeing plenty of home ice could help the club get off to a quick start to 2012.

The Phoenix Coyotes are looking to get back into playoff contention as a road-heavy portion of their schedule continues.

St. Louis looks to snap a season-high three-game losing streak and extend its home point streak to eight when it faces Phoenix on Tuesday night.

The Blues (21-12-5) have gone 15-5-5 since coach Ken Hitchcock replaced the fired Davis Payne on Nov. 6, but they start the new year on an 0-2-1 skid. St. Louis has scored three times during the losing streak.

"We've got to learn how to battle back,'' center Scott Nichol said after a 3-0 loss at Detroit on Saturday, the Blues' second road defeat to the Red Wings in five days. "You're going to be behind a goal or two.''

St. Louis will be trying to avoid its first four-game slide since Feb. 27-March 5, and a return to home ice could help. The Blues, who have one of the league's best home records at 14-3-2, play 10 of their next 12 at the Scottrade Center.

The Coyotes (19-16-4) continue to battle through a rough stretch of games, as they play six of eight on the road to open January after not having more than two consecutive contests at home last month.

"In 18 years as a pro I've never had a schedule this bad," defenseman Adrian Aucoin wrote on a blog on the Coyotes' official website.

Still, the club arrives in St. Louis just out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference following a 4-2 victory at Minnesota on Saturday. Radim Vrbata snapped a five-game point drought with a pair of third-period goals, while Ray Whitney and Daymond Langkow also scored.

Recent call-up Curtis McElhinney made 28 saves in his first start for the Coyotes, who snapped a season-high four-game skid that started with a 3-2 home loss to St. Louis on Dec. 23.

"We're a team where everybody has to contribute," coach Dave Tippett said.

McElhinney played well in his first start since April 9 with Ottawa, but it's uncertain if he or Jason LaBarbera will be in net Tuesday.

Top goalie Mike Smith has been skating since Sunday and could return after being placed on injured reserve last week with a groin injury.

It's also unclear if Brian Elliott will be in net for the Blues after losing a second straight start for the first time this season Saturday. Elliott, however, made 24 saves in the last matchup with Phoenix and is 8-1-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average at home.

Jaroslav Halak is 6-2-2 with a 2.08 GAA at the Scottrade Center after making 33 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss to Nashville on Friday. The Blues had won a season-high six straight at home prior to that.

If the Coyotes are going to hand St. Louis another defeat on home ice, they may need to be better on the power play. Langkow's goal Saturday came after the club failed in 11 opportunities with the man advantage over the previous four games, including all three Dec. 23.

"It was huge for us to not only score but get some momentum on our power play,'' captain Shane Doan said. "The last couple games it's almost taken away our momentum.''

The Blues are last in the NHL on the power play at 12.4 percent.

St. Louis center Alex Steen is questionable after missing two games with concussion-like symptoms. He scored against Phoenix last month.

The Coyotes will be without forward Raffi Torres, who was suspended two games without pay Monday for charging Wild defenseman Nate Prosser on Saturday.

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