Series (Game 4 of 4)

Arizona leads 3-1

Game 1: Thursday, November 5th
Game 2: Friday, February 5th
Game 3: Saturday, March 20th
Game 4: Tuesday, March 23rd

Coyotes 0

(46-23-5, 97 pts)

Blackhawks 2

(46-19-7, 99 pts)

8:30 PM ET, March 23, 2010

United Center, Chicago, Illinois

1 2 3 T
ARI 0 0 00
CHI 0 2 02

A. Niemi (Blackhawks - G): Saves: 28, Save Pct.: 1.000

P. Kane (Blackhawks - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

B. Seabrook (Blackhawks - D): Goals: 0, Assists: 0

Coyotes-Blackhawks Preview


The Phoenix Coyotes weren't expected to come close to the playoffs, let alone contend for the Western Conference's best record. With less than three weeks left in the regular season, this once-downtrodden club is tied atop the West with the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Coyotes look to set a franchise record with a 10th straight victory Tuesday night in Chicago and move ahead of the Blackhawks in the teams' second meeting in four days.

Phoenix (46-22-5) was tied for the West's second-worst record in 2008-09, and expectations were low heading into this season as the team filed for bankruptcy over the summer and Wayne Gretzky stepped down as coach in late September. The Coyotes have managed to put those distractions behind them, not only closing in on their first playoff berth since 2002 but matching Chicago for the most points in the West with 97.

"What can you say about this group that hasn't already been said?" coach Dave Tippett asked after Sunday's 3-2 shootout win over Dallas.

Tippett's team was 10 points back of the conference lead on March 2 but has since won nine in a row, matching the franchise record set by the Winnipeg Jets from March 8-27, 1985.

"We want to keep (the winning streak) as long as we can," said Radim Vrbata, who leads the Coyotes with 23 goals. "As we've said all season, we want to try to find points every game and that's what we're doing right now."

Phoenix has picked up a number of points lately via the shootout, including each of the last three wins and five of seven.

"For a team that's not supposed to have a lot of skill, we're finding ways to win, especially in a shootout," goaltender Jason LaBarbera said.

"We just have so much confidence in this room right now and I think that's the big difference. The confidence right now is unreal."

One of the Coyotes' shootout wins came against the Blackhawks (45-19-7) on Saturday night.

Chicago led 2-0 in the second period and 4-2 in the third, but Phoenix -- the only Western team the Blackhawks haven't defeated this season -- came charging back to win 5-4. Lee Stempniak scored twice and Vrbata had the lone shootout goal for the Coyotes, who are one win away from sweeping this season series for the first time in the franchise's 30-year history.

"It's embarrassing," Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith said after Saturday's loss in Phoenix. "There's really no other way to say it or talk about it."

Unlike the confident Coyotes, the Blackhawks are suddenly stumbling.

Chicago is 1-2-2 since March 13, and its once-solid defense has allowed at least four goals in three of four games.

"We've got to play defense," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We know we're going to score goals. We know we've got the offense."

Part of the reason for these breakdowns has been a sudden rash of injured defensemen. Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell and Kim Johnsson all have been hurt in the past five games, but there's a chance Seabrook could return for this contest.

Cristobal Huet, 2-2-0 with a 3.42 goals-against average in five games since the Olympics, might also be back after sitting out the last four because of the flu.

Ilya Bryzgalov is expected to be in net for the Coyotes after getting Sunday off. He stopped 34 shots against the Blackhawks on Saturday and has a 1.66 GAA with two shutouts in winning his last seven starts overall. However, he's lost his last four starts in Chicago, allowing 17 goals.