Coyotes’ host West-leading Blackhawks
The ability to overcome early deficits is a key reason the Chicago Blackhawks remain the NHL’s only team without a regulation loss.
That trend, though not ideal, began against the Phoenix Coyotes last month.
Looking for a third consecutive victory, the Blackhawks hope to continue their success in Phoenix and prevent the Coyotes from winning a third straight home game Thursday night.
Chicago (8-0-2) overcame a pair of two-goal, first-period deficits to win 5-3 at San Jose on Tuesday in a matchup of the Western Conference’s top teams. After a wild 3-3 first period, Patrick Kane scored the final two as the Blackhawks improved to 2-0-2 on a season-high six-game trip.
“Finding a way to win has been a good sign for us,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’re having fun right now.”
The Blackhawks, among the league leaders with 33 goals, have come from behind in five of their victories and both of their shootout losses. Tuesday’s comeback came two nights after Marian Hossa tied the score with 2.3 seconds left in a 3-2 shootout win at Calgary.
“They kept scoring, which is what good teams do,” San Jose captain Joe Thornton told the NHL’s official website. “They are on top of the conference for a reason.”
Chicago also leads the West in penalty killing (37 of 39) to help offset a power play that’s 0 for 12 in the last four contests.
“It’s a good start,” said Kane, who has four goals in the last three games. “Hopefully we can continue it. I think we can even play better, so that’s the exciting part.”
The Blackhawks twice trailed by one goal before scoring four straight in the first meeting with Phoenix and held on for a 6-4 road win Jan. 20. They had lost in six games to the Coyotes (4-4-2) in the first round of the 2012 playoffs.
Hossa, held without a point for second time in three games Tuesday, scored twice in Phoenix last month. The veteran winger was knocked out of last year’s playoffs on a blindside hit from Raffi Torres, who was still suspended for the last meeting but is expected to play Thursday.
Including the playoffs, the Blackhawks are 8-3-2 in their last 13 games in Phoenix and have won the last three while scoring 12 times. However, the Coyotes have yielded three goals during their current 3-0-1 home stretch.
Lauri Korpikoski and Martin Hanzal each scored his fourth goal of the season in Monday’s 2-1 win over Minnesota. The Coyotes are 3-0-2 since losing four of their first five.
“I’d rather be 10-0, but we’ve dug ourselves out of a little hole here,” coach Dave Tippett said. “The last four or five games we’ve gotten back to the way we need to play. A lot of guys paid the price to win, and that’s what you have to do.”
Mike Smith, who allowed all six goals versus Chicago, has stopped 38 of 39 shots to win his last two starts. He’s benefited from a defense that will do just about anything to stop the puck. Veteran Zbynek Michalek blocked a shot with his face in the closing minutes Monday.
“That’s what it’s going to take to win hockey games,” Smith said.
Hanzal, who scored against Chicago, has three goals and an assist over the past three games.
All of Korpikoski’s goals have come against Finnish goaltenders, but he is likely to face Corey Crawford in this contest. Among the league leaders with a 1.82 goals-against average, Crawford has a 1.87 GAA and a 4-1-1 record in Phoenix, including the playoffs.