Triumphant Coyotes return home to face Blackhawks
BLACKHAWKS (45-19-6) at COYOTES (44-22-5)
Chicago 5-4-1; Phoenix 7-3-0
This is the third of four meetings. On Nov. 5, Martin Hanzal and Peter Mueller scored first-period goals to lead the Coyotes to a 3-1 home win. Scottie Upshall added a goal and Ilya Bryzgalov had 31 saves for the win. Kris Versteeg scored for the Blackhawks. On Feb. 5, defenseman Adrian Aucoin scored the game-deciding shootout goal to give the Coyotes a 2-1 road win. Radim Vrbata scored in regulation, and goalie Jason LaBarbera made 28 saves for the win.
Suddenly the Blackhawks are banged up on defense with Brian Campbell
out 7-8 weeks with fractured ribs and a clavicle, Kim Johnsson batting an upper-body injury and Brent Seabrook
suffering a concussion on Wednesday. The ailments contributed to three straight losses before Thursday's win at L.A. and have forced forward Dustin Byfuglien to play the blue line.
Chicago is wrapping up a three-game road trip that began with a 4-2 loss at Anaheim and a 3-0 victory at Los Angeles.
On Thursday, Troy Brouwer
scored in the second period and Tomas Kopecky
added two third-period goals while Antti Niemi
made 17 saves for a 3-0 shutout of the Kings in Los Angeles. The Blackhawks outshot L.A. 37-17 and did not give the Kings a power play.
"We focused on the defense," Kopecky said. "That leads to good offense, and we were successful."
The Blackhawks moved into first place in the Western Conference while improving to 12-1-3 in the second half of back-to-back games. The Hawks and San Jose Sharks both have 96 points with 12 games remaining, but Chicago has one more victory.
Phoenix is returning home to Jobing.com Arena after completing a successful four-game southeast road trip, winning each game, two via shootout.
On Thursday, the Coyotes trailed Florida 3-0 after two periods but rallied for a stunning 4-3 shootout win. Vrbata scored with 59.7 seconds left in the third period to force overtime, then added the game-deciding goal in the third round of a shootout.
Hanzal and Lee Stempniak also scored in the third period to help the Coyotes stretch their winning streak to seven games, their longest since 2006-07. The Coyotes also set a franchise record for wins in a season with 44, besting the previous mark set by the 1984-85 Winnipeg Jets.
Bryzgalov stopped 21 shots in regulation and overtime for Phoenix.
For the Blackhawks, Marian Hossa
has 2 goals and an assist in three games, Patrick Kane
has 4 goals and 12 assists in 12 games, Patrick Sharp
has 5 goals and 10 assists in 13 games, and Duncan Keith
has 4 assists in four games. … For the Coyotes, Vernon Fiddler has 2 goals and 4 assists in seven games, Stempniak has 7 goals and 3 assists in eight games, Shane Doan has 3 assists in four games, and Matthew Lombardi has 2 goals and an assist in three games.
For the Blackhawks, Cristobal Huet
(flu) and Johnsson (upper-body) are day-to-day, and Campbell (broken clavicle, rib) is out 7-8 weeks. … For the Coyotes, Upshall (lower-body) and Kurt Sauer (upper-body) are on injured reserve, and Robert Lang (lower-body) is day-to-day.
With his goal on Thursday, Brouwer became the fifth Blackhawk with 20 goals this season. … On Wednesday at Anaheim, Keith collected a pair of assists for his 14th multi-point game of the season, and he became the first Blackhawks defenseman to reach the 50-assist plateau since Chris Chelios (58) in 1995-96. … Since Jan. 1, Hossa has recorded 27 points (15-12) and a plus-16 rating in 27 games for Chicago. … The Blackhawks have outshot their opponent an NHL-high 60 times this season. … This is just the fifth time in Coyotes/Jets franchise history that a team has won at least 40 games in a season. … Stempniak has a seven-game point streak (7-2-9) since joining the Coyotes from Toronto on March 3. He is the first player in franchise history to record a point in his first seven games with the Coyotes/Jets organization. … With Keith Yandle (11) and Ed Jovanovski (10) each reaching the 10-goal plateau, this season marks the first time two Coyotes/Jets defensemen have each reached double-digits in goals since 1992-93 (Phil Housley, 18, and Fredrik Olausson, 16).
"Obviously, the playoff picture is in our sight. We'd like to clinch our spot as early as possible, but at the same time we just take it game by game and continue to collect points, and you're going to get your spot eventually.
"I don't think that's a major focus for us. I think it's the way we've been doing it all year, and that's … game by game." -- Fiddler to the Arizona Republic