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Arizona Coyotes still reeling as the Chicago Blackhawks come to town

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After two terrible games bookending a week off, it doesn't get any easier for the Coyotes tonight.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Coyotes weren't supposed to be a playoff team this season, especially after last year's disaster. They do not sit in a playoff spot now. Yet there is a palpable feeling of disappointment now that the Coyotes sit in fourth place in the Pacific Division.

Despite their woes, the Coyotes do not get a chance to catch their breath, as they take on the Chicago Blackhawks in the first of back-to-back games to start the weekend.

Matchup at a Glance

Chicago Blackhawks Arizona Coyotes
Points 72 (1st Central) 53 (4th Pacific)
Goals For 2.74 (9th) 2.64 (12th)
Goals Against 2.28 (5th) 3.02 (28th)
Power Play 21.1% (T-6th) 17.3% (23rd)
Penalty Kill 82.9% (9th) 75.9% (28th)
5v5 Corsi For 51.4% (T-10th) 47.0% (26th)
PDO 99.6 (19th) 100.9 (T-4th)

View from Chicago

You can find the Chicago perspective at Second City Hockey

Patrick Kane is running away with the league scoring title, with 30 goals and 44 assists in 54 games played. But almost as impressive is rookie Artemi Panarin, who is tied for 10th in scoring league-wide with 47 points, which is also first among rookies.

Panarin may not get as much Calder Trophy love as he otherwise might since he played in the KHL and is playing in arguably the best top-six in the NHL. But even that may not be enough to stop him from becoming rookie of the year.

The All-Star Break came at a good time for the Blackhawks, as they lost three of four games by a combined margin of 11-1. Chicago came back from the break with a 2-1 win over the Avalanche, in the first of three games on the road.

View from Arizona

Avert your eyes, because Arizona is in the middle of some ugly hockey. The Coyotes followed up a 2-1 shootout win over Minnesota with a brutal 5-2 loss in Winnipeg. After a full week of recovery, the Coyotes did absolutely nothing, losing 6-2 against the Los Angeles Kings to fall out of playoff position.

The penalty kill is largely to blame for the team's woes, with five power play goals surrendered in their last two games. But it should also be noted that Louis Domingue posted consecutive nights with five goals allowed on 25 total shots. Is Domingue just hitting a rough patch? Or is the young netminder finally hitting a wall?

Keys to the Game

  • Stop. Taking. Penalties. - Three allowed power play goals is bad. And yet, the Coyotes actually killed off four penalties, which suggests just how many chances they spotted the Kings. If Arizona is going to have any shot at getting back in playoff position, that has to stop. Immediately.
  • Give Domingue a Break - That doesn't necessarily mean play him less, but it does need the Coyotes need to do a better job controlling the puck away from him. If the Coyotes can keep him fresher as the game goes on, he should be in better shape to make saves down the stretch.
  • Step Up. Someone needs to have a stand-up game for the Coyotes. Who it is doesn't necessarily matter. But Arizona needs a spark from somebody.

Players to Watch

Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo are lighting up the goaltending world, but Corey Crawford should complete the Vezina triumvirate. He is 29-12-2 with a .931 save percentage and seven shutouts. He would be keeping a far worse team in the playoff picture, let alone Chicago.

Jordan Martinook has a pair of goals and an assist in his last four games. His line with Shane Doan and Brad Richardson is doing everything it can to keep the Coyotes in the playoff race.

Injury Report

Chicago is expected to be without Marcus Kruger until the end of the regular season, but Jonathan Toews and Michal Rozsival are both considered probable for tonight's game.

Mike Smith's timetable has been pushed back from February to March, while Joe Vitale still has no timetable for return. Jarred Tinordi did not play on Tuesday with an undisclosed issue, and may not be available tonight either.

Puck Drop

Tonight's game begins at 7 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on ESPN 620 AM.