By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will look to take a 2-1 series lead in their best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinals matchup with the Blackhawks tonight when they play Game 3 at the United Center in Chicago. The puck drops at 6 p.m. (Arizona time).
The teams split the first two games in Arizona, and both games were decided in overtime.
The Coyotes are a confident bunch as the series shifts to Chicago for Games 3 and 4. That’s because Phoenix won 20 road games this season, including two at the United Center.
"We play a very similar game both home and on the road," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "We are a hard-working, tight-checking, grind-it-out team -- and sometimes that's the best answer on the road.
He added: "There will be great energy in the building, but this is the fun time to play. You love to go in there and play in that atmosphere like that, just like our atmosphere at home was excellent. But the game is played on the ice, not in the stands. The energy in the building is great. but we still have to go in there and play well and do what it takes to win."
Tippett on Tuesday said his team would play Game 3 minus forward Lauri Korpikoski
, who suffered an undisclosed injury in Game 2.
Meanwhile, goalie Mike Smith
and center Martin Hanzal
both took part in Tuesday’s morning skate at the United Center. Afterward, Tippett said both players would be game-time decisions. Hanzal suffered an undisclosed injury early in Game 2 and played only a few shifts. Smith was checked hard in the head while playing the puck behind the net by Chicago’s Andrew Shaw in the second period of Game 2 and was briefly shaken up. On Tuesday, the NHL suspended Shaw for three games for his hit on Smith. Click here to read more
Smith stopped 89 of 95 shots in the first two games. If he doesn’t play, backup Jason LaBarbera
will start in net.
Although the series is even, the Coyotes are hoping to get more offensive production from their top three point producers – Ray Whitney
, Radim Vrbata
and Shane Doan
. The three have combined for just one assist (by Doan) in the first two games.
"To get them on the board would certainly help our situation,” Tippett said.
Unlike many of his teammates, Coyotes defenseman Adrian Aucoin
knows what it’s like to play a Stanley Cup Playoffs game at the United Center.
|Photo by Getty Images.
“It’s certainly an overwhelming experience playing playoff hockey there, that’s for sure, but it’s a great feeling,” said Aucoin, who has played postseason games at the United Center as a member of the Blackhawks and as a visiting player with the Calgary Flames. “I think the key is to use the energy in that building for you instead of against you.”
The Blackhawks are flying high after rallying to win Game 2 thanks, in part, to a dramatic goal they scored with just 5.5 seconds left in the third period to force overtime.
Chicago compiled a 27-8-6 record at the United Center this season, which was the fourth-best home record in the NHL. Moreover, the Blackhawks are 7-1 in their last eight postseason games at home, and 16-6 all-time at the United Center under Head Coach Joel Quenneville in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"They are a good road team,” Quenneville said of the Coyotes. “They've played us well here. They're a dangerous opponent. We have to take advantage of the building, of the crowd, but let's be sure we're not looking to outscore this team. We have to have patience to be effective against them."
Corey Crawford, who has stopped 61 of 67 of shots in this series, is expected to start in goal for the Blackhawks, who set a franchise playoff record with 50 shots on goal in Game 2.