By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will begin a two-game trip against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at the United Center. The puck drops at 6:30 p.m. (Arizona time).
Tonight's game is the second of four between these teams this season. The Blackhawks beat the Coyotes, 5-2, on Oct. 18 at Jobing.com Arena.
“(They are a) very good team,” Coyotes captain Shane Doan
said. “They came in here and gave it to us, and we have to respond. Hopefully no one forgets about how they came at us hard, and we weren’t ready, and they beat us bad.”
The Coyotes are 6-3-1 on the road and have outscored opponents 32-25 in those games.
Phoenix (12-7-3) will enter the game after posting a 3-0 shutout of the Dallas Stars on Saturday night in Glendale.
made 26 saves in that game and will start this game seeking his 12th win of the season. Smith has won three of his past four starts and he stopped 88 of 92 shots in those wins.
Right wing Radim Vrbata
leads the Coyotes with 11 goals and 19 points, and he scores a goal 17.2 percent of the time he shoots the puck. That’s tops on the team among players who have played at least 10 games. Three of Vrbata's goals have been game-winning goals.
The Blackhawks (14-7-3) will enter the game tied with the Minnesota Wild atop the Western Conference with 31 points.
“Chicago is one of the top teams in the League right now so that will be a huge challenge for us, so we’ll have to elevate our game,” Coyotes defenseman Adrian Aucoin
said. “We’ve played some pretty good games lately and a couple stinkers so we’ve got to really bear down for that one."
Chicago is returning to home ice after finishing a six-game trip with a 3-3-0 record, including wins at Anaheim and Los Angeles in the final two games.
|Photo by Getty Images.
"We want to make sure we prioritize our home games," Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville told reporters after Monday's practice. "... We don't want to be fancy tomorrow night, we want to be simple. I think we improved defensively in two of our last three games."
The Blackhawks, who have lost only once in regulation in their first 10 home games, have scored 79 goals this season - 10 more than any other team in the Western Conference and 18 more than the Coyotes.
Four players – Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp – already have notched more than 20 points this season. Toews leads the way with 25 points in 24 games.
Goalie Corey Crawford has started 19 of the team's 25 games and, like Smith, is tied for fourth place in the NHL with 11 wins.