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Mon, Dec 5, 2011 - 8:00 PM ET
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Coyotes-Blackhawks Preview

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The Phoenix Coyotes headed in the wrong direction after last week's decisive win at the United Center. The Chicago Blackhawks, meanwhile, have changed their fortunes since that game.

The Blackhawks head into Monday night's rematch seeking a third consecutive win while the visiting Coyotes try to avoid a season-high third defeat in a row.

Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith nearly followed his second shutout of the season with another Tuesday in Chicago, making 24 saves in a 4-1 victory. Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp ended that bid with 42.9 seconds left.

Ray Whitney backed Smith with a goal and two assists, and Radim Vrbata scored his 11th goal in 14 games.

After the Coyotes' offense came up empty in a 1-0 loss at Winnipeg on Thursday, Whitney registered his 350th career goal and third in four games Saturday, but it did little to help Phoenix (13-9-3) in a 4-2 loss to Philadelphia.

Smith, making his sixth straight start, was pulled after giving up all four goals in the first period.

"As a group, we've got to win more battles in the key areas around their net and around our net," captain Shane Doan said.

That same night - 24 hours after beating the New York Islanders 5-4 in a shootout - the Blackhawks (16-8-3) used a pair of goals from Marian Hossa to record a 5-2 win in St. Louis. Jonathan Toews tallied his 10th in 12 games and had an assist, giving him 20 points since Nov. 9, while Sharp scored for a third straight game.

Sharp also has eight goals and six assists in his last 11 contests.

"We got contributions across the board," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We had some timely goals from the right guys. A big win for us."

Quenneville's club will try to win three in a row for the first time since a season-high four-game run Nov. 10-16, but the question is whether Chicago will face Smith again or backup Jason LaBarbera. Phoenix plays three road games in four days, visiting Nashville on Tuesday and Detroit on Thursday.

LaBarbera is 4-1-0 with a 2.14 goals-against average in his last five starts against Chicago, but the Blackhawks beat him five times during a 5-2 win in Phoenix on Oct. 18.

Hossa and Toews each scored one of those, but it was Jamal Mayers who put his team ahead for good in the second period of the 5-2 win.

Smith, meanwhile, has allowed three goals in three appearances - two starts - against Chicago. He recorded a 2-0 win for Tampa Bay at the United Center on April 3

If Smith starts there again, the Coyotes will try to help him by solving their woes on the power play. Phoenix is 1 for 35 with the man advantage in its last 12 games and 0 for 12 over its past five.

"We just got to bear with it," forward Mikkel Boedker said. "We can't get down on ourselves if we don't score. We've just got to keep trying and keep trying."

The Coyotes are 2 for 17 on the power play in their last seven games versus Chicago but Whitney - one of the leaders of that unit - has six goals and 10 assists in his last 16 games against the Blackhawks.

Hossa has 10 goals and seven assists in his last 17 games versus Phoenix.

Tagged: Blackhawks, Lightning, Coyotes, Ray Whitney, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Mike Smith

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