GLENDALE [url=http://www.49erscheapstore.com/dwight-clark-jersey-cheap]Dwight Clark Jersey[/url] , Ariz. — Every NHL team seemingly wanted to face the Arizona Coyotes when the season began. As the schedule winds down, they are the team no playoff contender is eager to go against.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, who have led the Eastern Conference most of the season, discovered that during a 4-1 loss to Arizona on Monday. The Vegas Golden Knights, who have led the Western Conference much of the season, discovered that during a 3-2 loss to Arizona on Wednesday.
The St. Louis Blues, already a loser to Arizona this season, are hoping they don’t meet the same fate as the Lightning and Golden Knights when they play the suddenly dangerous Coyotes on Saturday night at Gila River Arena, in a game critical to St. Louis’ playoff hopes.
The Blues (43-28-6) had won six in a row until losing at Vegas 4-3 in overtime on Friday night, a loss that gained them a valuable point but dropped them a point behind the Anaheim Ducks for the top Western Conference wild card.
Jonathan Marchessault scored twice for Vegas, including the game-winner only 22 seconds into overtime. The Ducks moved past St. Louis, 93 points to 92, by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 in overtime.
Arizona (27-40-11) stumbled during a 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday as Jeff Carter scored three goals. It concluded a road trip in which the Coyotes won three of six, but they’re proving to be a very difficult opponent as the playoff races wrap up.
Certainly, much more so than back in October, November and December [url=http://www.chargerscheapstore.com/travis-benjamin-jersey-cheap]Travis Benjamin Jersey[/url] , when the Coyotes were winless through 11 games (0-10-1) and they won only nine of their first 41.
“Unfortunately, we came up a little bit short (in Los Angeles), but we’ll take the positives and get ready to go for St. Louis,” said left winger Max Domi, who had a goal and an assist against the Kings. “It was a good test for us and a really good learning experience, too, and we’ll take that and move forward. We’ve got four games left and, hopefully, we can make the most of those.”
The Coyotes are 18-13-6 since midseason, and 15-8-2 in their last 25 games. It’s not exactly a Presidents’ Trophy-level pace, but certainly much better than midseason, when they were threatening to put together one of the NHL’s worst seasons in decades.
“I’m proud of this team,” first-year coach Rick Tocchet said. “We had a good road trip and the guys played hard.”
The Coyotes are getting production from Kevin Connauton, who scored in Los Angeles and has three goals in two games, and rookie center Clayton Keller, who had a 10-game scoring streak stopped against the Kings. He has three goals and seven points in his last five games [url=http://www.falconscheapstore.com/garrett-grayson-jersey-cheap]Garrett Grayson Jersey[/url] , and 23 goals and 62 points overall.
The Blues beat the Coyotes 3-2 in a shootout on Nov. 9 but lost to them 5-2 on Jan. 20. They had won eight of nine before Friday, including key wins over the Kings and the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins.
“It was a typical Western Conference game, just heavy sticks, just heavy bodies and two teams just slugging it out,” said right winger Chris Thorburn, who scored his first goal with St. Louis.
Of those six consecutive Blues wins, four came in overtime, including three in a row from March 17-21 against the New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks and Bruins.
Brayden Schenn leads them with 65 points, including 26 goals, while Vladimir Tarasenko has a team-high 31 goals to go with 63 points.
Their late-season surge pushed the Blues from 11th place in the Western Conference on March 16 into a wild-card slot, and they now control their own playoff destiny rather than having to rely on other teams.
“Certainly, the picture’s a little bit clearer right now,” Blues coach Mike Yeo said.
However, playing the Knights and Coyotes on back-to-back nights in the desert is proving to be quite a challenge down the stretch. And the Blues’ schedule isn’t easy, with six games in nine days counting the Vegas game [url=http://www.chiefscheapstore.com/eric-fisher-jersey-cheap]Eric Fisher Jersey[/url] , and three more on the road.
St. Louis is 12-9-2 against the Pacific Division.
“What we do beyond this (is) really going to count,” Yeo said.Just stepping into the batter’s box to face good friend and former teammate Max Scherzer was a special occasion for Rick Porcello.
A career American League pitcher with 35 plate appearances on his resume going up against a three-time Cy Young Award-winner had mismatch written all over it. Instead, Porcello hit a three-run double off Scherzer that set the stage for the Boston Red Sox beating the Washington Nationals 4-3 in the opener of their three-game interleague series Monday night.
”I got lucky,” Porcello said. ”He got to the top of his windup and I told myself, `Start swinging.’ Then I hit it.”
Porcello’s first major league extra-base hit came in the second inning on an 0-2 pitch after the Nationals intentionally walked Jackie Bradley Jr. to pitch to him. His .156 batting average and limited hitting experience made it appear to be the right calculation, but Porcello drove Scherzer’s 96 mph fastball over the head of Juan Soto in left center for his first RBIs since 2009.
”You don’t hit for an entire year,” said Porcello, who came in with five hits and two RBIs in his career. ”You don’t even know what it’s going to look like once you step in there. I was thinking swing the bat and be competitive up there. You just never know what’s going to happen because you don’t do it very often.”
Scherzer and Porcello were teammates for five seasons with the Detroit Tigers and are still close. Because of that, Scherzer wasn’t surprised by Porcello’s hitting stroke.
”I know he can hit,” Scherzer said. ”Give him a couple sliders to keep him off balance and then was trying to get a fastball up and away and it ran back middle-in. Anybody can hit middle-in. He can do that. I’ve seen him do it.”
On the mound, Porcello (10-3) struck out five and limited the damage to solo home runs by Anthony Rendon and Daniel Murphy. Scherzer (10-5) struck out nine and kept the Red Sox off the board except for Porcello’s bases-clearing double and became the 11th pitcher to reach 1,000 strikeouts with two different teams.
When Scherzer exited the game after 108 pitches, Mookie Betts provided the Red Sox with their insurance run with a solo shot off Brandon Kintzler in the seventh, his 21st home run of the season. Bryce Harper hit his 21st in the eighth, but Boston’s bullpen held on to hand the Nationals their 16th loss in 24 one-run games.
”Go out there and try to win ballgames and they all feel the same to me,” Harper said as Washington fell to 42-41 [url=http://www.chargerscheapstore.com/corey-liuget-jersey-cheap]Corey Liuget Jersey[/url] , seven games back of NL East-leading Atlanta. ”I mean we lose the game, you’re a loser. Win the game, you’re a winner.”
Craig Kimbrel got into some trouble but picked up four outs for his 25th save in 27 chances.
Harper is doing just fine in center field but on Monday fielded some grounders at first base. It’s just experimental for now but could help the Nationals out down the line.
”I don’t ever know if he’ll ever start a game there, but I believe that if we’re in a pinch and we’ve got to make some kind of decisions in-game, he probably could play there,” manager Davey Martinez said.
PUERTO RICO PRIDE
Martinez and Red Sox manager Alex Cora were never on the same team but knew each other well from their playing days. They exchanged lineup cards as two managers of Puerto Rican descent in the series opener, a special moment and occasion for them and their country.
”It’s good for Puerto Rico,” Martinez said. ”We feel blessed and we’re happy we got the opportunity to do what we do.”
Red Sox: RHP Steven Wright (left knee inflammation) received a PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injection, a day after throwing a short bullpen session. Cora said Wright could return before the All-Star break. . 2B Dustin Pedroia (left knee inflammation) will remain in New York all week. . Cora said RHP Tyler Thornburg (shoulder surgery) will most likely be activated from the disabled list during this series.
Nationals: 1B Ryan Zimmerman (right oblique strain) took part in a simulated game as he prepares to try to play in a game for the first time since May. … Martinez said C Matt Wieters (left hamstring strain) will go on a minor-league rehab assignment Tuesday at Double-A Harrisburg after reporting significant progress in the simulated game and could be activated as soon as Wednesday.
Boston LHP Brian Johnson (1-2, 4.28 ERA), who is 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA in three career interleague appearances, faces Washington for the first time. RHP Tanner Roark (3-9, 4.10 ERA) pitches for the Nationals in his first career start against the Red Sox.
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