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Blackhawks-Coyotes Preview - GAME 1

Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 4:02 PM
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Blackhawks-Coyotes Preview - GAME 1
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Phoenix Coyotes

The Skinny
 
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By Dave Vest
GLENDALE -- The Coyotes will begin their postseason quest for the Stanley Cup on Thursday night when they host the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 of a Western Conference quarterfinal series at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time).

Phoenix, which earned 97 points and won the Pacific Division title, is the No. 3 seed in the conference playoffs. Chicago, which finished fourth in the Central Division, is the No. 6 seed.

"Winning the division means getting home ice," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said on Wednesday. "It’s nothing to hang your hat on. It’s an accomplishment for our group and we’ll certainly take that, but the celebrating was very minimal right after that game. All it means is home ice for us and we have to take advantage of it.”

The Coyotes will be looking to win a first-round playoff series for the first time since moving to Arizona from Winnipeg in 1996. The franchise last won a playoff series in 1987.

These teams played four times during the regular season. Chicago won the first game, but the Coyotes won the last three.

“The regular season is what it is but it’s over now,” Coyotes goalie Mike Smith said. “Obviously, it’s nice to know we can beat them but the playoffs are a whole new season and we start from scratch now.”

Mike Smith
Smith will be in goal for the Coyotes and make just his fourth appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He played three games for Tampa Bay last season in the Eastern Conference finals.

Smith finished the regular season with five wins in a row and he stopped 190 of 192 shots in those games.

Offensively, the Coyotes are led by winger Ray Whitney, who notched 77 points in the regular season. Whitney, 39, notched a team-high six of those points vs. Chicago. Linemate Radim Vrbata scored the most goals on the team (35) while captain Shane Doan ranked third in goals (22) and points (50).

“This is going to be fun,” Doan said. “This is why you play all the other (regular-season) games – so you have a chance to play in the last ones... We like our team and we can’t wait to get it going.”

Doan said the key to beating the Blackhawks will be puck possession.

"We have to play with the puck," Doan said. "We can't be chasing it the whole time. You look at their team and their top five, six forwards - they have elite talent. If you give them the puck too much it's going to make for a long night."

Photo by Getty Images.
The Blackhawks earned 101 points this season but only 41 points on the road. They will enter this game after losing four of their last seven games of the regular season.

Like Whitney, right wing Marian Hossa ranked 12th in the NHL with 77 points, and left wing Patrick Sharp was the team's leading goal scorer with 33.

Corey Crawford, who has played in just eight Stanley Cup Playoff games, is expected to start in goal for the Blackhawks, the only team in the NHL that did not post a shutout this season.

Captain Jonathan Toews, who hasn't played since Feb. 19 because of an upper-body injury, this week told reporters he expects to play in Game 1.

"“I think I’m right there and it’s been a day where I feel like I’m just getting better and better and getting back to where I want to be as far as when I’m going to play a game," Toews told reporters on Wednesday. "So, we’ll see how it goes tomorrow.”



Who's Hot
 
Smith
Coyotes goalie Mike Smith set career-highs this season for games played (67), wins (38), shutouts (8), goals-against average (2.21) and save percentage (.930)
Sharp
Blackhawks left wing Patrick Sharp notched five points in the last five games of the regular season, and finished seventh in the NHL in plus/minus at plus-28.
Did You Know?
 
  • The Coyotes/Jets franchise has posted a 5-15 record in Game 1 of the 20 playoff series they have participated in.

  • Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett and Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville were teammates for seven seasons with the Hartford Whalers in the 1980s and spent another year together in Washington. In three years under Tippett, the Coyotes are 8-3-1 against the Blackhawks.

  • Game 1 will be televised on NBC Sports Network and FOX Sports Arizona Plus, and broadcast on XTRA Sports 910 AM at 7 p.m. For in-game updates via Twitter, follow @coyotesgameday.
Injuries
 

  Daniel Carcillo
  Steve Montador
  None reported

series schedule/results
DateScoreW. Goal
Apr 23 '12PHX 4 at CHI 0O. Ekman-Larsson
Apr 21 '12CHI 2 at PHX 1 - OTJ. Toews
Apr 19 '12PHX 3 at CHI 2 - OTM. Boedker
Apr 17 '12PHX 3 at CHI 2 - OTM. Boedker
Apr 14 '12CHI 4 at PHX 3 - OTB. Bickell
Apr 12 '12CHI 2 at PHX 3 - OTM. Hanzal
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
J. Toews1112+2000
P. Kane1022+1000
B. Seabrook1101+1000
J. Oduya1011+0000
M. Hossa1000+2000
A. Shaw1000+1000
P. Sharp1000+0200
D. Keith1000+0000
D. Bolland1000+0200
B. Bickell1000+0200
N. Leddy1000+0000
J. Mayers1000-1000
A. Brunette1000-1000
B. Bollig1000-1000
S. O'Donnell1000-2000
N. Hjalmarsson1000-2000
V. Stalberg1000-2000
M. Kruger1000-2000
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
C. Crawford10-13342.65.912
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
A. Vermette1101+1200
T. Pyatt1101+0000
M. Hanzal1101+0201
K. Yandle1011+2200
A. Aucoin1011+1000
D. Langkow1011+1000
R. Torres1011+1000
R. Klesla1011+0000
M. Boedker1000+1000
R. Whitney1000+0200
S. Doan1000+0000
D. Morris1000+0000
M. Rozsival1000+0000
R. Vrbata1000+0000
L. Korpikoski1000+0000
G. Brule1000+0000
B. Gordon1000-1000
O. Ekman-Larsson1000-1200
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
M. Smith11-02451.74.956
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