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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, April 20th (All times Eastern)

Phoenix Coyotes (18-17-8) at Chicago Blackhawks (34-5-4), 8:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Phoenix Coyotes will try to boost their fading playoff hopes when they visit the mighty Chicago Blackhawks for Saturday's clash at United Center.

The Coyotes, who have lost three straight and four of their last five outings, are five points in back of the last playoff spot in the West with just five games remaining.

The Blackhawks, meanwhile, have already locked up the Central Division title as well as the top seed in the West. Chicago also is closing on this year's Presidents' Trophy, as it currently sits six points ahead of Pittsburgh for the NHL lead.

Phoenix has gained a point in two contests during its current three-game slide, including one in Thursday's shootout loss in St. Louis. Brian Elliott stopped all three shots he saw in the shootout to help the Blues take the 2-1 decision at Scottrade Center.

Andy McDonald, the lone scorer and the first shooter in the shootout, beat Phoenix goaltender Chad Johnson with a forehand into the top left corner. Elliott later made a glove save on Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the final participant in the shootout, to seal the win.

Radim Vrbata scored on the power-play with 1:07 left in regulation to send the game into overtime for Phoenix, while Johnson made 29 saves in the loss.

Phoenix has played the last two games without No. 1 goaltender Mike Smith, who is day-to-day with a lower body injury and questionable for Saturday.

The Coyotes are playing the middle test of a three-game road trip on Saturday and are 5-9-7 as the visiting club this season.

Chicago is 2-0 against the Coyotes this season and has won five of the last eight regular-season meetings in this series, but Phoenix has taken the past two encounters in the Windy City.

Even though the Blackhawks have little else to accomplish in this regular season, the club shows no signs of gearing down for the playoffs. Chicago has won its last seven games, the club's second-longest winning streak this season behind a club-record 11-game run from Feb. 15-March 6.

Chicago's latest win came in Friday's 5-4 overtime victory against visiting Nashville. Marian Hossa scored the winner on the power play 52 seconds into extra session to lift the Blackhawks.

"We had a good practice with the power play and I had a good feeling about it coming into the game," said Hossa. "That will be big once the playoffs come because the power play wins you games in the playoffs."

Duncan Keith posted a goal and two assists while Patrick Kane added a goal and an assist for the Blackhawks. Corey Crawford made 23 saves in the win.

Both the Blackhawks and Penguins have five games remaining to determine the Presidents' Trophy winner. Pittsburgh plays the Bruins on Saturday after Friday's originally scheduled game in Boston was postponed due to the manhunt for the last remaining marathon bomber.

Chicago's only other Presidents' Trophy came in the 1990-91 season.

The Blackhawks are completing a three-game homestand tonight and are 17-3-2 as the host this season.

04/20 11:00:03 ET