BLACKHAWKS (19-4-4) at COYOTES (15-6-4)
Season series: The Chicago Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes will play their second of three games. The Blackhawks won 5-4 in a shootout at United Center on Nov. 12; seven of the past 15 games between the teams have gone to the tiebreaker.
Big story: The Coyotes are back home after ending a three-game losing streak with a 3-1 win against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday. The Blackhawks wrap up their seven-game "Circus Trip" in the desert. After a 5-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in the first game, the Blackhawks have won five in a row, including a 2-1 victory against the Dallas Stars on Friday night in an 11-round shootout.
Coyotes: Phoenix is off to one of the best starts in franchise history, but the Coyotes hadn't been playing the kind of tight-checking hockey Head Coach Dave Tippett preaches -- at least not until Wednesday, when they stifled the Wild in Minnesota.
"Before the game we talked about not letting things spiral out of control, that losing three was bad enough," Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle said. "The great teams find ways to end those runs quickly, and now we have to take the momentum from that win and run with it."
"We didn't give up an early lead," Tippett told the media Friday. "We were solid in a lot of the aspects of the game that we wanted to kind of shore up. Our puck decisions were good, we defended well around our net, our goaltending was really solid. It was just kind of a solid team game that we've come to kind of know our identity that way."
Mike Smith will be back in goal after taking Wednesday's game off. Smith is 5-3-1 with two shutouts, a 2.89 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage in nine career games against the Blackhawks.
"It's always an exciting game with Chicago," Tippett said. "There seems to be some fans that follow them around that makes our fans come out in droves... We lost our first home game last week and we want to get back on a winning streak at home. It will be a very competitive game. We know a lot about their team and I think they know a lot about our team. It will be a fun game."
The Coyotes are 11-1-1 and rank sixth in the League with a .846 winning perecntage when scoring first in 2013-14. Phoenix also owns a record of 125-14-20 (.849%) when scoring first since the start of the 2009-10 season, which is the highest scoring first points percentage among all NHL teams during that span.
Blackhawks: If you want to beat the Blackhawks, rest assured you'll need to play a full 60 minutes, and sometimes more. The game against the Stars marked the third time in five games on their road trip that the Blackhawks won despite trailing after two periods.
On Friday, Patrick Sharp tied the game by scoring at 7:21 of the third period, and neither team scored through overtime. Sharp scored in the second round of the shootout, Dallas' Rich Peverley matched him in the third round and no one scored again until Ben Smith beat Kari Lehtonen in the 11th round for the win.
"It was a heck of a game," Chicago Head Coach Joel Quenneville said. "The pace was incredible, the first period was tremendous pace. They work hard and get a lot of speed on you, they keep pressure on you, but we hung in there. Crow (Corey Crawford) was rock solid and great in the shootout as well, but it was one of those games that was tight and we had to do things quickly."
Who's hot: Vrbata has notched two goals and seven points in the Coyotes' past five games... Patrick Kane was kept off the scoresheet Friday, ending his 11-game point streak, but still has three goals and six points in the past four games.
Injury report: Phoenix is without forward Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) and defenseman Zbynek Michalek (lower body). Captain Shane Doan (lower body) sat out practice Friday, but the Coyotes expect him to be able to play... Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell (lower body), goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (lower body) and defenseman Michael Kostka (lower body) are out.
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