By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will put their season-high five-game winning streak on the line tonight at the United Center against the Chicago Blackhawks. The puck drops at 6:30 p.m. (Arizona time).
Backup Jason LaBarbera
will start in goal for Phoenix (34-18-5), which won the only other game between these teams this season, 3-1, on Nov. 5 in Glendale. LaBarbera is 4-4-1 with a 2.44 goals-against average.
LaBarbera is expecting a challenge tonight.
“There is no denying the fact that they have a lot of talent,” LaBarbera said. “Up front they’re very well balanced. All four lines can score goals and all four lines can compete hard.”
Coyotes center Robert Lang, who ranks seventh on the team in scoring with 26 points, may not play because of a minor injury. If he can’t go, center Joel Perrault, recalled Thursday from the American Hockey League, will take his place (see PODCASTS below).
The Coyotes haven’t won six games in a row since the middle of the 2006-07 season when they won seven consecutive matches.
Chicago (37-15-4) will enter the game with a two-game losing streak, including a lackluster 3-2 home loss to St. Louis on Wednesday. Nevertheless, the Blackhawks are 21-6-1 on home ice and have outscored opponents 93-62.
“They’re a young, quick, very-skilled team,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “…They’re a team that when they’re at the top of their game you’d better be at the top of yours to have a chance to win.”
Cristobal Huet is expected to start in goal for the Blackhawks.
Defenseman Duncan Keith is having an outstanding season for the Blackhawks. His 50 points (11 goals, 39 assists) rank second in the NHL among defensemen behind Washington’s Mike Green.