Blackhawks-Coyotes Preview

Some stellar defensive play has helped the Phoenix Coyotes post

their longest win streak of the campaign. The Chicago Blackhawks’

poor performances in their own end are one reason why they’re on

the verge of matching their longest skid in five seasons.

The Coyotes will try to earn a fifth straight win and fourth in

a row at home Saturday night by taking advantage of a matchup with

the struggling Blackhawks, losers of seven straight.

Mike Smith allowed one goal for the third straight game Thursday

and that paved the way for Phoenix to claim a 2-1 overtime win over

visiting Calgary. Smith stopped 23 shots, and Shane Doan scored the

game winner.

“This is how things will be and we need to find ways to get

points,'” coach Dave Tippett said. “This game wasn’t pretty, but

we’ll stick the two points in the bank and move forward.”

The win streak has the Coyotes (26-21-8) in eighth place in the

Western Conference, and they’ll try to stay in playoff contention

by knocking off a team that’s falling down the standings.

Chicago (29-19-7) is currently in sixth but is 0-6-1 over its

last seven for its longest skid since dropping eight straight Dec.

30, 2007-Jan. 11, 2008. Its nine consecutive road losses are the

most since a franchise-worst, 19-game skid Nov. 10, 2003-Jan. 29,

2004.

The Blackhawks have been outscored 40-22 during that road losing

streak and 32-15 in its last seven overall. They gave up three

power-play goals in a 5-3 loss at San Jose on Friday and have

allowed nine over the past 30 times they’ve been shorthanded.

Chicago also dropped to 0 for 13 with a man advantage on its

nine-game road trip, the team’s longest in 18 years.

“We just need to get out of this, and we just have to battle

through it,” forward Marian Hossa said. “The way this thing is

happening isn’t any fun right now. If we get an ugly win, we’ll be

able to get out of it.”

The Blackhawks have four stops to go on their miserable trek and

will try to turn their fortunes around with a third consecutive win

in Phoenix. After Corey Crawford struggled yet again, they could

turn to veteran Ray Emery to help them earn that victory.

Emery won’t have Steve Montador (upper body) to help him and the

status of fellow defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson is unknown because

of the same kind of ailment.

While Crawford has given up 10 goals over his past two games,

Emery hasn’t been much better lately with 10 allowed over his last

three appearances. He gave up four during a 5-2 loss in Colorado on

Tuesday.

Emery made his only start against Phoenix at Jobing.com Arena on

Nov. 21, 2009, and gave up two goals in a 3-1 defeat for

Philadelphia. Smith, meanwhile, has won all three of his starts

against the Blackhawks while registering a 1.30 goals-against

average.

He was in net for a 4-1 win in Chicago on Nov. 29 and a 4-3

shootout victory there Dec. 5.

Jason LaBarbera started a 5-2 home loss Oct. 18. The Blackhawks

outshot the Coyotes 27-9 over the first two periods of that

win.

Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, who scored in that game, has

five goals and two assists in his last five matchups with Phoenix

but has two assists on the trip.

Coyotes veteran Ray Whitney has totaled two goals and nine

assists in a seven-game point streak. He also has a team-best five

points against Chicago this season (two goals, three assists).