Coyotes continue busy stretch with 1st of 3 games vs. Chicago
CHICAGO — Following a well-deserved one-game rest, Mike Smith will return to the lineup on Tuesday night for the Arizona Coyotes, who will be looking to snap a four-game losing streak as they take on Chicago Blackhawks in the second game of a back-to-back road trip.
The losing streak grew to four on Monday with a 4-1 loss at Columbus, with Louis Domingue starting in goal.
Smith got the night off after making a career-high and franchise-record 58 saves in Saturday night's 3-2 shootout loss to the Blue Jackets. His 58 saves were the most by any goaltender in the NHL this season.
“He has been a key guy for us,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said Monday with Fox Sports Arizona. “We need him to play well. We're still trying to find our footing as a young team, and he has certainly been a backbone for us.”
The Blackhawks (16-8-3) are atop the Western Conference standings despite having lost their last two games to Philadelphia and Winnipeg.
They are without captain Jonathan Toews (upper body) and goaltender Corey Crawford (appendectomy) and have scored one goal or less in five of their last eight games.
“Sometimes, you think too much about creating offense, and that works to your disadvantage,” said Patrick Kane, who leads the team with 26 points. “I think (we need to) play a little bit simpler of a game, myself included. … That's the best way to get scoring chances and get shots in this league is try to get it back to the point, get to the net, and hopefully get some screens.”
Crawford will remain sidelined for at least a couple weeks, and the timetable for Toews' return is uncertain.
Like the Blackhawks, the Coyotes (8-12-4) have endured prolonged slumps on offense this season. Arizona has scored three-plus goals in only 10 out of 24 games this season.
Right winger Radim Vrbata leads the Coyotes with 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in 24 games. Vrbata's five-game point streak ended Monday when he was held scoreless against the Blue Jackets. Oliver Ekman-Larsson had six points in three games against the Blackhawks last season.
The Coyotes had eight penalties in Monday's loss and gave up a pair of power-play goals.
“Penalties caught up with us, and we didn't create enough offense to overcome it,” Tippett said.
“You're giving them energy, you're giving their best players time on the ice. When you're doing that, you're behind the eight ball.”
Scott Darling has been handling the bulk of goaltending duties for Chicago in Crawford's absence. He has a 4-2-1 record with a .912 save percentage and a 2.71 goals-against average in nine games. Smith, who missed a good portion of the early season with a lower-body injury, is 4-2-3 with a .930 save percentage and a 2.64 GAA in 10 games.
- Arizona Coyotes
- Chicago Blackhawks
- FOX Sports Arizona
- Louis Domingue
- Oliver Ekman-Larsson
- Patrick Kane
- Radim Vrbata
- Scott Darling