By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will try to set a franchise record for consecutive victories tonight when they play the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center. The puck drops at 5:30 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix will enter the game with a nine-game winning streak. The franchise also won nine games in a row in 1984-85 as the Winnipeg Jets.
Should Phoenix (46-22-5) win tonight’s game it would overtake Chicago (45-19-7) for first place in the Western Conference. Moreover, should Phoenix win and the Calgary Flames lose in regulation to the Anaheim Ducks tonight, the Coyotes would clinch their first NHL playoff berth since 2001-02.
“We’ve been able to climb up the standings here a little bit,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “…We want to continue to play well and this is another good test game for us where if we don’t play well, Chicago is a team that can expose you. I’m looking forward to our guys getting into this test.”
to listen to Tippett's pre-game remarks after Tuesday's morning skate.
will be back in goal for the Coyotes after taking a breather on Sunday in Dallas. Bryzgalov last played on Saturday night when the Coyotes rallied to beat Chicago, 5-4, in a shootout in Glendale.
Forwards Radim Vrbata
and Lee Stempniak
co-lead the Coyotes with 23 goals. Defenseman Adrian Aucoin
has netted five shootout goals in five tries this season, and all five have been game-deciding goals.
Asked to identify the key to the nine-game winning streak, Aucoin said: “Winning and confidence is contagious. When you start rolling and people start realizing they can do a little more, they just start playing better and better.”
While the Coyotes are cruising, the Blackhawks are sputtering with just two wins in their past seven games (2-3-2).
"There's a lot of time to turn it around," forward Andrew Ladd told the Chicago Tribune. "It's just drilling in the message and trying to make sure every guy understands that we need to do those little things to win and I don't know if everyone's just kind of tuning it out but we have to figure it out."
Injuries to defensemen Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell and Kim Johnsson have hurt the Blackhawks, who have given up 22 goals in the past seven games. Seabrook, who suffered a concussion last week vs. Anaheim, is expected to return for tonight’s game.
Backup goalie Antti Niemi again will start in net for flu-ridden Cristobal Huet.