Coyotes take on streaking Blackhawks to open 2-game trip

CHICAGO — The Arizona Coyotes likely have four games to play as they are currently configured.

The Coyotes’ four-game countdown to the NHL trade deadline begins Thursday night in Chicago against the Blackhawks in the first of back-to-back road games. On Friday, they head to Dallas to take on the Stars.

Well out of playoff contention, Arizona (21-30-7) began shedding talent with Monday’s trade of defenseman Michael Stone to the Calgary Flames. With other teams looking to bolster their rosters, the Coyotes will likely be getting ready for even more lineup changes. Center Martin Hanzal, who leads the team with 15 goals, is at the top of the list of potential targets.

“Unfortunately, we’re sellers,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said, according to the Arizona Republic. “That’s where we are as a team.”

The Blackhawks (37-18-5), solidly locked in for a playoff berth but still hoping to make a surge toward the first-place Minnesota Wild, fall into the buyer category. Although they could still add a piece or two before the trade deadline, their four lines have started to click recently.

The Blackhawks used a five-point effort (three goals, two assists) from captain Jonathan Toews to knock off the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday night for their seventh win in eight games.

Toews has not been as productive as in past seasons but has tallied 20 points over his past 12 games. “I think for me, the biggest change in my approach to the game is my expectation,” Toews said after Tuesday’s win. “(I) just try to go into every game with no expectation, focus on the process, focus on playing well, playing the right way, staying in the moment, especially if (shots) don’t go in or if things don’t go your way.”

Winger Patrick Kane ranks seventh in the NHL with 60 points (20 goals, 40 assists) in 60 games.

The Coyotes, 5-4-1 in their last 10 games, are coming off a 3-2 victory over Anaheim on Monday night.

Rookie center Christian Dvorak’s goal vs. the Ducks gave him nine points (six goals, three assists) in nine February games.

Rookie winger Lawson Crouse, who has missed the past five games because of a lower-body injury, accompanied the team on the trip and could be ready to return.

This is the last of three meetings between the two teams. Chicago won the first two — 4-0 and 4-3. Chicago’s Martin Hossa has scored three goals in the two previous meetings.