NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, February 7th (All times Eastern)
Chicago Blackhawks (35-10-14) at Phoenix Coyotes (26-20-10), 9 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Chicago Blackhawks will try to head into the Olympic break on a three-game winning streak when they visit the Phoenix Coyotes for Friday's clash at Jobing.com Arena.
In addition to winning two straight tilts the Blackhawks have earned at least a point in five consecutive outings, going 3-0-2 during that stretch, which also coincides with the start of a seven-game road trip. The defending Stanley Cup champions won't complete their current swing until after the NHL returns from its hiatus for the Winter Games in late February.
Chicago will visit the New York Rangers on Feb. 27 before hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins outdoors at Soldier Field on March 1. The Blackhawks' next game at United Center is scheduled for March 4 against Colorado. Chicago is 17-6-7 as the visiting team this season.
The Blackhawks will play their final game before the Olympics without the services of star winger Patrick Kane, who has left the team to attend his grandfather's funeral in Buffalo, N.Y.
Kane, who will represent Team USA at the Sochi Games, had two goals and assist in Chicago's 5-3 win over Los Angeles on Monday, hours after he learned about his grandfather's passing.
The 25-year-old Kane is leading Chicago this season with 63 points and he is second on the club with 27 goals.
Kane didn't reach the scoresheet on Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks, but Marian Hossa registered a goal and an assist and Corey Crawford posted a 29- save shutout to lead the Blackhawks to a 2-0 victory at the Honda Center.
Hossa scored his 24th of the season 39 seconds into the second period and assisted on a Jonathan Toews tally late in the third to help Chicago pull within one point of Anaheim for the best record in the NHL.
"It is always nice to get a shutout but catching up to them at little bit, that's what is important," Crawford said.
Chicago, however, is only two points ahead of St. Louis for first place in the Central Division and the Blues hold three games in hand over the Blackhawks.
The Coyotes are currently in the heat of the race for the Western Conference's eighth and final playoff seed. Phoenix enters Friday one point out of the West's eighth spot, as it trails the idle Vancouver Canucks for that distinction. Dallas is tied with the Coyotes in ninth place and the Stars are also off on Friday.
Phoenix certainly hasn't helped its playoff chances with its play of late. The Coyotes have lost two of three, five of eight and 11 of their last 17 games.
After posting a 3-1 home win over the East-leading Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, the Coyotes dropped a 3-1 decision Tuesday against the visiting Dallas Stars. Antoine Roussel scored the winner early in the third period to help the Stars pick up the win in the desert.
Antoine Vermette scored the only goal of the game for the Coyotes, while Mike Smith allowed two goals on 39 shots in the loss.
"We just didn't do the little things tonight and they did a real good job of putting us on our heels," said Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett. "There were some plays there where we had our chances, but we didn't get it done."
One player who has been on fire for the Coyotes of late is Vermette, who has notched eight goals and three assists over his last eight contests.
After completing a five-game homestand tonight, Phoenix has one game left before the Olympic break and it comes in Saturday's rematch against the Stars. Tomorrow's tilt in Big D is the first of three straight on the road for the Coyotes, who will return from the hiatus with games in Winnipeg and Colorado on Feb. 27 and 28, respectively.
Chicago and the Coyotes met twice earlier this season and the Blackhawks won both tests, giving them a chance to sweep the 2013-14 series tonight. The Blackhawks have won four of five and seven of the past 11 overall games in this matchup and they have claimed three in a row and five of six in the desert.
02/07 10:48:08 ET