Coyotes, searching for consistency, face red-hot ‘Hawks

CHICAGO — The Arizona Coyotes have struggled of late to win on a consistent basis, which doesn’t exactly make for good timing to be facing the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Coyotes are coming off a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks, but are just 5-4-1 in their last 10 games. And even though they mounted three early goals on just five shots in Tuesday night’s victory, they will enter Thursday night’s game in Chicago a far cry from playing at the of the Blackhawks.

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

As the Blackhawks continue to play well throughout their four lines, Tuesday’s victory was even bigger for Toews, who hasn’t produced as much offensively as he has in the past.

“I think for me, the biggest change in my approach to the game is my expectation,” Toews told reporters 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.”

Playing through ups and downs has become the norm for the Coyotes. Well out of playoff contention, Arizona finds itself unloading talent and prepared to continue to do so as next week’s NHL’s trade deadline approaches.

The Coyotes traded defenseman Michael Stone to the Calgary Flames on Monday in what could be just the first of a number of moves Arizona could make in the coming days. Stone was once a mainstay defensively for the Coyotes, but saw his play drop off this season, which led to him being sent to the Flames for a pair of draft picks over the next two years.

With other teams looking to bolster their rosters, the Coyotes will likely be getting ready for even more lineup changes, which impacts how they play moving forward.

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

Solidly locked in for a playoff berth, but still hoping to make a surge toward the first-place Wild, the Blackhawks fall in the buyer category. Although they could still add a piece or two before the trade deadline, the way their four lines have come together has Chicago in a good place as their recent success has suggested.

Now, it’s just a matter of keeping it going starting on Thursday night at home.

Things are going our way now,” Blackhawks left winger Richard Panik told reporters after Tuesday’s win. “I think we found the right chemistry and we know where we should be on the ice.”