The Phoenix Coyotes have one more game on home ice before the extended Olympic break comes around. That game will feature the Chicago Blackhawks, who have won five of the last six games played between the teams in Glendale. The Coyotes have to hope that their recent trend of alternating poor performances with excellent ones continue and that the presence of members of the 1980 Miracle on Ice squad provides inspiration for a fantastic game.
By the Numbers
|Points||84 (1st in Central)||62 (5th in Pacific)|
|Goals per game||3.42 (1st)||2.79 (12th)|
|Goals against per game||2.59 (13th)||2.91 (23rd)|
|Power play %||22.3 (4th)||19.8 (9th)|
|Penalty kill %||80.2 (23rd)||79.8 (27th)|
Chicago finishes a long west coast trip tonight in Glendale, the sixth game of a seven game road trip. They have won two in a row, including a shutout of the Ducks in Anaheim in their last game on Wednesday night.
After starting the season red hot, the Hawks have cooled off since the calendar switched to 2014. Chicago is 7-3-7 in 17 games since January 1st, but they have earned both points in three of the last four. Offensively, the Hawks are the best team in the league on the season and have been even more impressive offensively on the road. Chicago is the only team to have scored more than 100 goals on the road this season having tallied 101 road goals so far. In fact, they have a 14 goal lead over Anaheim, who have scored 87. One place where the defending Cup champs have faltered this season from last is on the defensive end of the ice. Last season, Chicago was the stingiest team in the NHL, allowing a little over two goals a game (2.02). This season, they currently sit in the middle of the league, allowing 2.59 goals per game.
Chicago has owned the Coyotes recently, going 7-2-2 in the last 11 games between the teams. Since the 2012 Western Conference Quarterfinals meeting, the Hawks are an even more impressive 4-0-1, outscoring the Coyotes 24 to 15 in those five games.
For more on the Blackhawks, be sure to check out Second City Hockey.
The Coyotes have struggled with consistency all season, and the last four games have been a microcosm of it. They played a fantastic game of 60 minute hockey in earning a shutout against arch rival Los Angeles and followed up that effort with an egg laying of epic proportions against the cellar dwelling Buffalo Sabres. The next game saw the Coyotes stifle the East leading Penguins and NHL scoring leader Sidney Crosby. Finally, they played Dallas and spent the majority of the game attempting to beat themselves more than the Stars. With all that in mind, it's time for a good performance and they could use against Chicago, who have drubbed the Yotes in both meetings this season.
Keys to the Game
- Discipline. It's redundant in the sense that it seems to be a key every game, but the Coyotes tend to forget it. It's not just about avoiding penalties, but also about not making mental mistakes and playing sloppy hockey. Chicago can easily turn those kind of errors into goals and put this game out of reach before it even gets going.
- Chicago is good. The Coyotes have spent most of the season playing to the level of their competition. The Blackhawks are an elite team, so hopefully the Coyotes will come out with an elite effort.
- Put on a show. It's the last home game before the league shuts down for the Olympics and with the 80 Olympic team in the house, all Arizona sports eyes will be on Jobing.com. Let's give them an image to remember.
Players to Watch
|2013 - Brandon Saad||59||18||22||40||22||16||3||1||4||208||13.5|
Saad has really blossomed this season and may once again find himself on the Blackhawks' second line. After all the star power everybody knows and loves, Saad is the next best forward and can be a game-breaker too.
|2013 - Antoine Vermette||21||14||35||1||32|
Vermette leads the Coyotes in goals and is riding an eight-game point streak entering play tonight, the longest current streak in the NHL. He hasn't scored a point against the Hawks in either game this season. If all goes well, the right streak will come to an end after tonight's game.
Projected Starting Goaltenders
|2013 - Corey Crawford||41||2341||12||8||92||2.36||1094||1002||.916||1|
Crawford is as hot as any goalie in the NHL at the moment. The Coyotes have solved him in the past and will need to do so again in order to take home victory.
|2013 - Mike Smith||47||2715
Mike Smith has now had two solid performances in a row against the Penguins and Stars. Too bad only one of them resulted in a win.
The Blackhawks will be without former Coyote goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who is out for the rest of the year after having shoulder surgery. They will also likely be without the services of Johnny Oduya due to a lower-body injury.
The Coyotes are currently injury free. So no excuses now, eh boys?
Tonight's game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Arizona time. The radio presentation will be on AZ Sports 98.7 FM. The game will be televised on FSAZ with a special one hour pre-game show dedicated to the men of the 1980 US men's gold medal winning hockey team.