Hawks, Coyotes conclude season series
BLACKHAWKS (38-25-8) at COYOTES (39-23-11)
: WGN (HD), FS-A (HD).
: Chicago 6-2-2; Phoenix 6-2-2.
: This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between the clubs, with the Coyotes holding the advantage. Each team claimed a shootout win at home in February, after the 'Yotes edged the Hawks, 2-1, on Nov. 10 in Chicago to open the season series. Ray Whitney leads the way for Phoenix with three points versus the Hawks this season. For the defending champs, there are six players with two points each in the series.
: The Blackhawks want to regain what they had a couple of weeks ago, and what the Coyotes currently have: a winning streak and a spot in the upper echelon of the packed Western Conference standings. The Hawks won a season-high eight straight games from Feb. 20-March 5 to climb up the Western ladder, but they are 1-2-2 since then, including a lopsided 5-0 loss in Dallas on Thursday. Chicago is still in the top eight, but any one game could change that dramatically at this point in the year. On the other hand, the Coyotes are sizzling hot as they return to the desert as the fourth seed in the West. They begin a six-game homestand against Chicago coming off of a 4-0 road trip, capped by a 3-1 win over the League-leading Vancouver Canucks on Friday.
: If the Hawks were to begin another winning streak on Sunday, they would end a four-game road losing streak in the process. Moreover, a win over the Coyotes would go a long way in putting the 5-0 trouncing in Dallas behind them, maybe their worst outing of the season.
"Tough one to explain, nothing good about this game," coach Joel Quenneville said in his postgame press conference. "We should all absorb some responsibility on how bad we were. We didn't respect the urgency (of the game)."
, who didn't record a single shot on goal in the loss, was held without a point for just the second time in his last 14 games. However, he still has 11 goals and 10 assists in that stretch.
"We knew this would be one of the toughest games of the year and had one of the worst performances," Toews said. "No excuses. We shouldn't forget this too quickly."
: Besides completing a perfect road trip, the Coyotes' win over Vancouver on Friday was notable for a couple of other reasons: the 'Yotes became the first team to win twice in Vancouver this season; and the victory gave Phoenix a 6-0-0 mark in Western Canada this season, the first time a team has accomplished that feat since the St. Louis Blues in 1999-2000.
"It was a great trip," coach Dave Tippett said. "I give our guys a ton of credit. They battled hard every game."
The Coyote who battled the most against the Canucks was goalie Jason LaBarbera. He provided some much-needed rest for Ilya Bryzgalov, who had started 10 consecutive games and 29 of the last 30. Despite not playing much lately, LaBarbera was up to the task, stopping all but one of Vancouver's 47 shots en route to being named the game's No. 1 star.
: For the Hawks, Patrick Kane
has 23 points over his last 19 games and Marian Hossa
has 15 points over his last 12. … For Phoenix, Bryzgalov is 4-0-0 with one shutout and a 1.50 goals-against average in his last four starts. Lee Stempniak has scored one goal in each of his last three games. Captain Shane Doan is riding a seven-game point streak, with four goals and six assists over that span.
: Jordan Henry (knee) is still out for Chicago, and Dave Bolland
(concussion) remains sidelined, but "is showing a little progress," according to coach Quenneville. Brian Campbell
(leg injury) will also not play, remaining in Chicago to nurse the injury. Bryan Bickell
(illness) missed the last game in Dallas, but said he felt "10 times better" after practice on Saturday. … Phoenix remains without defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who has been placed on IR with an eye injury. Also, Martin Hanzal is questionable with a lower-body injury.
: The previous seven match-ups between Phoenix and Chicago over the last two seasons have been decided by one or two goals, with four going to shootouts. In their three meetings this season, the Blackhawks have gone 4-for-8 on the power play and are second in the NHL with an overall percentage of 23.5. Each team will look for the man advantage though, as both the 'Yotes (78.6%) and Hawks (78.8%) are near the bottom of the League on the penalty kill.
: When Adrian Aucoin takes the ice on Sunday, he will play in his 1,000th NHL game, becoming only the 264th player in League history to reach the milestone. A host of players have reached the mark this season alone: Jovanovski, San Jose's Patrick Marleau, Dallas' Jamie Langenbrunner, Minnesota's Andrew Brunette, Carolina's Cory Stillman, Detroit's Todd Bertuzzi, Ottawa's Sergei Gonchar, Buffalo's Mike Grier and Los Angeles' Ryan Smyth.