After earning a needed post-All-Star break victory without Jonathan Toews, the Chicago Blackhawks move forward with their captain back in the mix.
Returning from his one-game suspension, Toews tries to help the visiting Blackhawks continue their success against the struggling Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.
Chicago (34-16-4) suffered three road defeats in the final four games before the break before returning with a 2-1 victory at Colorado on Tuesday. Richard Panik and Artemi Panarin had first-period goals as the Western Conference leaders outshot the Avalanche 42-23 to prevail while Toews was suspended by the NHL for pulling out of the All-Star festivities because of an illness.
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“I think you can tell everybody was excited (to be back),” defenseman Duncan Keith said.
Chicago should be excited for the return of Toews, who doesn't have a point in a season-high five straight games but is obviously an important presence. But regardless who is on the ice, the Blackhawks appear eager to build on their latest victory with two more road games before playing four in a row at home.
''Just because you did well in the last game, or the last little bit, doesn't mean it's going to be easy,'' said Corey Crawford, who has a 1.58 goals-against average while winning 10 of 12.
''I think I've taken that approach. I think our guys have taken that, too. We always want more.''
Crawford had his issues Dec. 29 at Arizona (24-21-5), but his teammates provided enough support in a 7-5 victory. Keith and NHL scoring leader Patrick Kane each had a goal with two assists, Andrew Desjardins scored twice and Toews added an empty-netter to cap the Blackhawks' highest-scoring game since November 2014.
Chicago's scored nine times and gone 1 for 15 on the power play in splitting its last six games. However, it went 3 for 4 at Arizona in December and has averaged 4.0 goals during a 7-1-2 stretch against the Coyotes. Kane has five goals with 12 assists in his last eight against them while Toews' recorded three and six assists in the last nine.
Arizona matched its highest-scoring game of 2015-16 against Chicago, but has 12 non-shootout goals during a 2-5-1 stretch. It's 1 for 28 on the power play in the last seven after enduring a second consecutive 0-for-5 performance in Tuesday's 6-2 loss to Los Angeles.
Perhaps more alarming is that the Coyotes have allowed the last two opponents to go 4 for 11 with the man advantage and promising rookie Louis Domingue was pulled for yielding five goals in each. He posted a 1.74 GAA in his previous four starts.
Domingue took the blame for allowing four second-period goals to the Kings.
''Four out of six goals were stoppable goals, so it's good to see him take responsibility for them,'' said Arizona's Dave Tippett, who coached his 1,000th game. ''This one was a good lesson for us. That was a lesson in special teams, a lesson in puck battles, a lesson in commitment to getting things done.''
Fellow rookie Anthony Duclair has a goal in two straight contests after going six in a row without a point. Veteran teammate Shane Doan recorded a hat trick against the Blackhawks but does not have a point in three consecutive games.