Preview: Coyotes vs. Blackhawks, 6:30 p.m., FOX Sports Arizona Plus
Two Western Conference teams experiencing difficult Februarys meet for the third time this season on Monday night at Gila River Arena.
The Blackhawks are three-time Stanley Cup champions since 2010, with the latest title coming only three years ago, but they’ve fallen into last place in the Central Division by losing their last five games and nine of their last 11.
They’re still in the hunt for the playoffs with a 24-23-8 record, but each passing loss is making it more difficult in a competitive conference.
“It’s an environment that we’re not accustomed to, and we’re trying to remain positive,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after a 3-0 loss at Minnesota on Saturday night in which Chicago took 44 shots and missed on every one.
“That’s where we’re at, and I think that’s what we’re dealing with.”
General manager Stan Bowman isn’t promising big changes, telling the Chicago Sun-Times that he has no plans to break up the Blackhawks’ Big Four of defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook and forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane despite the team’s recent struggles.
Kane leads the Blackhawks with 21 goals and 53 points, but no one else on the team has reached 40 points. Keith doesn’t have a goal all season, and Seabrook has only three.
“It’s frustrating,” Toews said. “(But) it’s simple. We know what we’ve got to do. It’s right there in front of us. … We know we’ve got a lot of talent and a lot of ability here. We’ve got to get back to playing simple hockey. At the end of the day, we’re still hanging on to that belief in the room (that they can make the playoffs). We need to keep working and not try to do too much.”
The Blackhawks own a pair of victories over the Coyotes: 4-2 in Glendale on Oct. 21 and 3-1 in Chicago on Dec. 10, both times with the currently injured Corey Crawford in goal.
But scoring is an issue, both even strength and on the power play.
Chicago’s power play ranks 29th in the league at 15.4 percent, and that’s affecting the team’s overall scoring. The Blackhawks have been held to two goals or fewer in 10 of their last 13 games.
Scoring is a season-long issue, too, for the Coyotes (13-32-10), who are 30th in scoring and 30th in goals against.
The most recent loss was 4-3 to Philadelphia on Saturday night in a shootout that went to seven rounds before being decided on Nolan Patrick’s goal. It was the 18th one-goal loss for Arizona this season — tied for the most in the NHL.
— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) February 11, 2018
The Coyotes lost even though Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth came in cold off the bench to face five shots in overtime — he stopped them all — after starting goalie Brian Elliott left with a lower-body injury.
Arizona is 1-5 in shootouts this season and has won only one of five games this month.
“Tired of losing,” Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta said. “Doesn’t matter if it’s overtime, shootout or 60 minutes. It kind of grinds you.”
Rookie Clayton Keller leads Arizona with 15 goals and 28 points. Derek Stepan has a goal and four assists in his last three games and leads the team with 24 assists. Defenseman Alex Goligoski has a goal and three assists in his last three games — making him one of only four NHL defensemen with nine consectuive season of 20-plus assists.
The Coyotes are 6-16-4 on home ice. They play eight of their next nine games at Gila River Arena.