The Chicago Blackhawks welcome the Phoenix Coyotes to the Madhouse on Madison Saturday night and look to extend their win streak to 8 games. Phoenix, meanwhile, sits five points out of 8th place with 44 points and has five games left to snag that final spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
After Phoenix and Chicago met in the first round of last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs and Phoenix pushed itself just short of the Stanley Cup Finals, things were looking up for a team who’s ownership situation resembles a hot potato. But struggling goaltenders and a lack of offensive production have contributed to its 11th place standing with just 10 days left until the postseason begins.
Mike Smith was a primary reason for sending the Hawks and ‘Yotes to overtime for five straight games in the 2012 Western Conference Quarterfinals, but he has struggled to maintain solid numbers this season – especially against the Blackhawks. In two games at Jobing.com Arena, Chicago has outscored Phoenix 12 – 6 and credited both Patricks (Kane and Sharp) with 5 points a piece this season. Smith currently registers a 13 – 1 1 – 4 record through 30 games this season.
Chicago is hot off an overtime winner against Nashville on Friday night after Marian Hossa sent the Preds packing – a bitter reminder of game 5 of 2010’s Stanley Cup Quarterfinal for Nashville. Hossa has scored 3 goals in his last 3 games and looks to be back to top-form after missing several weeks with an injury.
Jonathan Toews looks like he has been shot out of a cannon lately, recording 6 points (2G, 4A) over his last four games and upping his overall points this season to 46. He currently ranks first in the league in takeaways (56) and second in the NHL with his 60.4% faceoff win percentage.
Saturday night’s game will be a physical matchup and Phoenix will be playing desperate to get two points out of its last five games this season. Expect Chicago to continue playing in top-form to keep its streak alive and to prepare for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. CT at the United Center and – for those folks watching the broadcast from Chicago – the game will be on WGN tonight.