By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will try to close out their Western Conference Quarterfinal series with the Chicago Blackhawks tonight when they host Game 5 at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix leads the best-of-seven series 3-1 thanks, in part, to back-to-back overtime wins at the United Center in Games 3 and 4. Should the Coyotes win tonight, they would advance past the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since moving from Winnipeg to Phoenix in 1996.
Coyotes captain Shane Doan
, the only player still with the team that made the move to Arizona, said winning the decisive game in this series will be more challenging than winning any of the first three games.
“We know that anything short of everything we have from everyone we have won't be good enough," Doan said. "The first three wins have been as tough as they come, but the last one is the toughest of all."
once again will be in goal for the Coyotes as they seek their historic victory. Smith allowed just 10 goals on 164 shots in the first four games of the series.
“I think we can be a lot better,” Smith said on Friday. “ I don’t think we played our best game last game, and we need to elevate our game and worry about ourselves.”
The Coyotes, who have defeated Chicago six times in eight tries this season, played minus center Martin Hanzal
and winger Lauri Korpikoski
the past two games. Both were injured in Game 2. This morning, Head Coach Dave Tippett said Hanzal is "doubtful" for Game 5 and that Korpikoski would be a game-time decision.
Meanwhile, winger Raffi Torres
received a 25-game suspension from the NHL on Saturday for his hit on Marian Hossa in Game 3. That means Torres won't play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs again this season regardless of how far the Coyotes advance.
This playoff series is the first in 61 years to feature overtime games in each of the first four games. The only other time it happened was in 1951, when Montreal beat Toronto in a five-game series that featured five consecutive OT games.
The Blackhawks are hoping to extend the series and force Game 6 on Monday at the United Center.
Chicago rallied from a 3-0 series deficit in 2010 on their way to winning the Stanley Cup in 2010. Last year, the Blackhawks rallied to force a Game 7 against Vancouver after trailing the series 3-0.
|Photo by Getty Images.
"Sure we can feel confident; we've won three playoff games in a row before," Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane told reporters. "But you can't win three in one night. (We just have) to focus on one game; every period, every shift can be the difference."
Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville is reportedly considering replacing goalie Corey Crawford with backup Ray Emery.
With Hossa, who led the team in points during the regular season, not playing again tonight, Quenneville is looking for his other top offensive players – Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp - to step up at this critical time.
"Our top guys have to be better for us to be successful going forward," Quenneville said "We need them to be our best players, for sure."