Game Time: 7:30 PM
TV/Radio: CSN(thank god)/WGN720
Somehow Surviving: Five For Howling
True story - I was walking into a Target yesterday and I actually saw someone wearing a Coyotes hat. Phoenix hockey fans, they do exist. The Truth is out there.
So the Blackhawks return to the confines of the United Center tonight to take on the Yotes who are surprisingly and perhaps inexplicably good once again. Though they currently sit in 4th place in the Pacific Division, a win tonight will move them right up to a tie for first. Time will tell if the Coyotes are a playoff team or simply riding a bubble at the moment. Though their record looks good (12-7-3) not a lot of other stats show a team that should have as many points as they currently do. They're middle of the pack in goals for or against per game and shots per game.
The Coyotes evidently have the same magic source for goalies that the Hawks have dipped into a few times over the past few years. You wouldn't be alone in assuming the Coyotes were pretty much done after they traded away Bryzgalov to the Flyers this off-season. He seemed to be the backbone of any success the Yotes had the past few years. Enter Mike Smith. Smith hasn't had a full season as a #1 and never really seemed destined to anchor a team but he's getting it done so far this year. He's got one of the better Sv% and GAA in the league despite the Coyotes allowing more shots to get through than any other team in the league. Doesn't hurt that the Coyotes have one of the better PK squads in the league and don't take many penalties to start.
Up front, it's the same old story for the Coyotes. They lack a true dynamic star but have guys that can certainly hurt you in you sleep on them. Radim Vrbata leads the way with 19 points. The Coyotes got a nice boost from the return of Daymond Langkow who had two assists after missing a few games following a death in his family. Former Versteeg punching bag Kyle Turris has finally ended his moronic holdout and started to skate with the team again. He's making the trip to Chicago but likely won't play tonight.
The first game home following the Circus Trip has been good for the Blackhawks in previous years. They're undefeated in the first game going back to the lockout. The Coyotes won't make things easy though as they're one of the stronger road teams in the league. It's a bit too early to tell what the lines will look like exactly but I don't imagine we'll see many changes from what we had in LA. The obvious exception being the potential to sit John Scott or at least move him back to the blue line. This whole Sharp/Toews thing is certainly working.. lets see more of that. While Kane and Hossa had a quiet end to the circus trip they are certainly a line that can strike fear in the hearts of other teams. They'll likely get a nice boost from being back at home where Q can choose who to send them out against. The Hawks had little problem with the Coyotes back in October and hopefully won't tonight.
Let's Go Hawks