The Chicago Blackhawks may have one of the finest collections of offensive talent in the NHL, but that group has been feeling more pressure due to the club’s defensive struggles this month.
Chicago looks to avoid a third consecutive defeat by dealing the visiting Arizona Coyotes a sixth straight loss Tuesday night.
The Blackhawks (28-15-2) outscored opponents 41-29 in non-shootout goals while going 10-2-1 in December, as Patrick Kane recorded eight of his 21 goals during the month. They’ve allowed 27 non-shootout goals in going 3-5-0 in 2015, giving up the final three in the third period of a 6-3 home loss to Dallas on Sunday.
Brandon Saad scored twice to give him five goals and an assist during a four-game point streak, but Corey Crawford stopped just 23 of 28 shots as Chicago had numerous defensive breakdowns.
"I think it’s already a concern," Saad said. "With the skill in here, we’re going to score goals, but the main objective here (is) we’ve got to keep them out of our net."
The Blackhawks have yet to drop three in a row this season and are experiencing their first two-game skid since losing to Toronto and Winnipeg on Nov. 1 and 2. Jonathan Toews has seven assists in a five-game point streak, but his 11-game goal drought is his longest since going a career-worst 12 to begin the 2008-09 season.
”You’re going to have your moments across the season,” Toews said. ”We’re not going to overreact and make a huge deal or panic about anything – the same way we don’t get overconfident when things are going our way.”
Antti Raanta will make his first start since a 5-2 loss at Edmonton on Jan. 9 for the Blackhawks, who fell 2-0 on the road in the most recent meeting with Arizona on Feb. 7.
Chicago beat the Coyotes 5-4 in a shootout in the last matchup at the United Center on Nov. 14, 2013, ending a six-game home losing streak in the series that included the postseason.
Arizona (16-24-5) has dropped three straight and six of seven on the road after falling 4-3 in a shootout to Winnipeg on Sunday. This will be its third of eight straight road games, five of those coming after the All-Star break starting Jan. 27 against Philadelphia.
Coach Dave Tippett was pleased with his club’s effort against the Jets despite the loss, as Lauri Korpikoski and Tobias Rieder scored in the final seven minutes of the third to force overtime.
Mike Smith, who has struggled to a 3.43 goals-against average and .887 save percentage, made 27 saves in an overall solid effort.
"We hung around all game," Tippett said. "(Smith) gave us a good game, and we found a way to keep chugging in the third. Give our guys a ton of credit. I like the way we hung around the game."
Leading goal-scorer Mikkel Boedker won’t be around Tuesday night, and likely won’t be back for at least a month after having his spleen removed following a hard hit in the loss to the Jets. Boedker, who has 14 goals and 14 assists, will see his consecutive games streak end at 257 – fourth-longest in team history – on Tuesday.
Keith Yandle, who had a goal and an assist in the most recent meeting with Chicago, recorded an assist for the third straight game. Shane Doan returned after missing the previous two with a lower-body injury and had two assists.
”To tie it up in the third and to get points shows a lot of will and fight in our team,” Yandle said.
Smith will look to end a four-start skid. He made 30 saves for his fourth shutout in 17 career starts, including playoffs, against Chicago in the last meeting.
The Blackhawks will be without forward Daniel Carcillo, who was suspended for six games for cross checking Jets forward Mathieu Perreault.