Blues at Coyotes preview: Battle for fourth place in the West

The St. Louis Blues and Arizona Coyotes go to battle for the eighth and final time this season on Saturday. The two teams played each other in a seven-game regular-season series back in February, with the Coyotes posting the better record of 4-3-0. The Blues are 3-3-1 against Arizona, so a win in regulation would crown them as winners of the season series. But more importantly, the game will determine who takes hold of the prized fourth-place position in the West Division, a golden ticket to the playoffs. The Coyotes currently sit one point back of St. Louis for the final playoff spot in the West, so expect both teams to play their hearts out in this pivotal matchup.

Entering the game with three wins in its last four matches, the Blues will look to take advantage of Arizona, who are spiraling downward on a five-game losing streak. Both teams are hungry for wins right now as they enter the final stretch of the season. A regulation win for St. Louis would put it three points above the Coyotes with two games in hand; a regulation win for Arizona would drop the Blues to fifth place in the West. If St. Louis loses in overtime or shootout, it wins the tiebreaker for fourth spot.

Expected to start in net are Jordan Binnington for the Blues and Antti Raanta for the Coyotes. Binnington is coming off a tough 4-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday that saw him allow four goals on 32 shots. Although his only game this week was a rough outing, he posted save percentages (SV%) of .960% and .980% against the Minnesota Wild and Vegas Golden Knights, respectively, in his two prior starts. Raanta, on the other hand, was out with a lower body injury from March 22 until his return on Wednesday in a 5-2 loss to the Wild, where he allowed five goals on 27 shots (.773 SV%). Both goaltenders will look to rebound from poor performances with the opportunity to lead their teams to the front of the exhilarating West playoff race. (Update: Darcy Kuemper is named as the surprise starter for Arizona, returning from the injured reserve for his first game since March 8 after suffering a lower body injury).

The puck drops for this must-watch game at Gila River Arena on Saturday at 5 p.m. CT.

As per NHL.com, the Blues’ projected lineup against the Coyotes is as follows:

Jaden Schwartz – Brayden Schenn – Vladimir Tarasenko

Sammy Blais – Ryan O’Reilly – David Perron

Mike Hoffman – Tyler Bozak – Jordan Kyrou

Kyle Clifford – Ivan Barbashev – Zach Sanford

Torey Krug – Justin Faulk

Marco Scandella – Vince Dunn

Jake Walman – Colton Parayko

Jordan Binnington

Ville Husso

Scratched: Robert Bortuzzo, Niko Mikkola

Injured: Robert Thomas (shoulder), Mackenzie MacEachern (upper body)