Game Time: 7:00PM
TV/Radio: Rodeo Channel/WGN720
Tippett's Army: Five For Howling
Every year, the NHL schedule gods decide there is one team the Blackhawks must play nearly every week for the first 2 months, getting all four games out of the way early. This year that team is the Phoenix Coyotes. The Hawks have played less than 30 games so far this year but will be taking on the Coyotes for the third time tonight in the UC. Three games against the Yotes and not a single game against Scum yet. Weird world we live in, eh?
The last time we saw the desert dogs - the Coyotes played their simple yet highly effective style of hockey and dominated a game in which the Blackhawks started strong but faded steadily throughout the 60 minutes. Much was made of the return home from the Circus Trip and the lingering effects it may have brought on the Blackhawks but they rang hallow to mine and many other ears.
Coming off two straight wins - the Blackhawks are once again showing signs of life while the Coyotes are hitting a bit of a slump. Since pantsing the Hawks at home on the 29th, they've dropped their last two games. The opening period has been their downfall in the last two games as they gave up the lone goal against the Jets early in the first and then couldn't come back after a disastrous first against Philly where they gave up 4 goals. Mike Smith had the first blip in his year as he was in the net for all four goals against in the Flyers game and got the hook for the first time this year. One would hope that this is the first sign of a crack in his armor rather than simply an off night but that's probably as useless as hoping HBO will finally make that Deadwood movie they've been talking about for years. As I wrote in the last preview - Smith has been usually strong this year behind Tippett's system and I would look for him to do all he can to step up after a bad game.
The real story of the night will once again be how the Blackhawks can respond to the forechecking game that the Coyotes are sure to bring. Things were relatively close in the first period last week it wasn't until a bad change led to the Yotes first goal that things began to fall apart. The Yotes will also be without defenseman Rostislav Klesla who was their leader in +/- on the blue line. Other than that - things remain the same. The Yotes are disciplined to the core and play their system almost perfectly. They don't have a ton of firepower but trust themselves to outwork teams most nights and capitalize on the chances they do make. They want to keep this a low scoring affair so as usual, the Hawks coming out strong early is crucial.
Speaking of the Hawks - Marian Hossa gets his second chance to get career goal number 400 tonight. His two goals on Saturday put him one away from the milestone. The Mouseketeer is back in net to start the game but from the sounds of it, Q may put him on a shorter leash. Q has hinted that Emery deserves a few more looks and could steal a start or two. Nothing has shown the Emery is playing significantly better than Crow so hopefully a little competition lights a fire for both of them. The lines seemed to have stayed mostly the same with Carbomb playing along side Daydream Nation and Hossa and Sharp paired up again. Dave Bolland didn't skate this morning but I haven't seen anything definite about him missing the game so that'll be something to keep an eye on. The Coyotes won't make it easy but this is definitely a game the Hawks can take if they keep things smart and simple.
Lets Go Hawks