Series (Game 2 of 4)

Arizona leads 3-1

Game 1: Tuesday, October 18th
Game 2: Tuesday, November 29th
Game 3: Monday, December 5th
Game 4: Saturday, February 11th

Coyotes 4

(13-7-3, 29 pts)

Blackhawks 1

(14-8-3, 31 pts)

8:30 PM ET, November 29, 2011

United Center, Chicago, Illinois

1 2 3 T
ARI 1 1 24
CHI 0 0 11

R. Vrbata (Coyotes - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

D. Langkow (Coyotes - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

S. Doan (Coyotes - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

Coyotes-Blackhawks Preview


The Chicago Blackhawks wish they would have picked up some more points on their just-completed trip, but they couldn't be happier with how that stretch ended.

Now the Central Division-leading Blackhawks will try to keep the momentum going in Chicago, where they'll spend much of their time over the next two months.

Chicago plays its first game at the United Center in more than two weeks Tuesday night when it goes for a fourth consecutive victory over the Phoenix Coyotes.

After scoring four goals combined in losses to Calgary, Edmonton and San Jose, the Blackhawks (14-7-3) finished their trip 3-3-0. One day after scoring four third-period goals in a 6-5 victory over Anaheim, Chicago won 2-1 over Los Angeles on Saturday.

"It would have been nice to be maybe 4-2, but 3-3 is not bad," said Patrick Kane, who had a goal and three assists on the trip. "... There's a lot of games (in Chicago) and December and January, so it's nice to be back."

The Blackhawks, who are a Western Conference-best 7-1-2 at home, play 19 of 26 at the United Center before embarking on a franchise high-tying nine-game trip starting Jan. 31. Coach Joel Quenneville knows there could be a letdown Tuesday following the grueling trip, but he also views this upcoming stretch as an opportunity to create separation with the teams playing catch-up in the conference race.

"We want to make sure we prioritize our home games," Quenneville said following 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' power-play has also made a nice improvement, converting 29.7 percent (11 for 37) in the last nine games after going 5 for 57 with the man advantage in the first 15.

Continuing this recent trend could be tough with the Coyotes (12-7-3) coming to town. They are among the league's best on the penalty kill at 88.9 percent.

A major reason has been the play of Mike Smith. The veteran netminder allowed a season-high five goals in Friday's 5-0 loss to Vancouver, but he's 11-4-3 with a 2.19 goals-against average after making 26 saves in Saturday's 3-0 win over Dallas.

"What I like about Mike is his consistency and how he handles himself," coach Dave Tippett said. "That's why he's a big part of what we're doing now."

If Smith gets the start, it will be his first against the Blackhawks since turning aside 31 shots in a 2-0 Tampa Bay victory in Chicago on April 3.

Jason LaBarbera made 30 saves on Oct. 18 in the Coyotes' 5-2 home loss to Chicago.

Whoever starts in net needs to be aware of Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who led the club with 10 points on the trip. He had a career-high five points in the victory over Anaheim and has the game-winner in each of the last two contests.

Toews, who found the back of the net last month against Phoenix, scored twice in regulation and netted the only goal in the tiebreaker in the Coyotes' last visit, a 4-3 Chicago victory Feb. 27.

Phoenix has been outscored 25-9 while losing six of eight visiting the Blackhawks.

The Coyotes will likely get their second shot at Corey Crawford, who made 14 saves Oct. 18 to improve to 3-0-1 with a 1.92 GAA in this matchup.

Phoenix makes its final visit to Chicago this season Monday.