The Chicago Blackhawks have a very outside shot at winning the Central Division. More importantly, they have a chance to further work their way into playoff form with a Tuesday night matchup against the young, inconsistent Arizona Coyotes, even if several players will remain sidelined.
If the Hawks win out while both the Stars and Blues lose out, the division is Chicago's. Maybe don't bet on that, though.
Injuries have become a key topic for the Hawks over the past few weeks, and once again the team will be without Corey Crawford, Marian Hossa and Andrew Shaw against Arizona. Crawford is reportedly progressing well from an undisclosed head injury -- he skated during practice Tuesday -- and his return looms as one of the biggest question marks over the team. Hossa and Shaw are dealing with minor issues that aren't expected to linger into the playoffs.
The team will be shorthanded once again against the Coyotes, though, not only because of the injuries but Duncan Keith's suspension as well. That means the Hawks' offense will have to be churning yet again like we've seen over the past two games. Thankfully, Arizona is one of the league's worst teams in goal prevention (26th in the NHL) and penalty kill efficiency (28th).
Coyotes | Record: 35-37-7 | 77 points | 4th in Pacific Division
Arizona's encouraging season has given way to the reality that another draft lottery is in the near future, but there's still a lot to like about what the Coyotes are building. Rookie forwards Max Domi and Anthony Duclair have played well, and defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson deserves more credit than he receives as a result of the team's poor defensive performance. OEL has 21 goals, 32 assists and a plus-6.3 percent Corsi relative in 72 games this season. That's superstar-level performance on a team lacking other superstars.
However, a brutal stretch in late February effectively crushed the team's playoff hopes. Since March 11, the Coyotes are 7-5-0, but trailed the Pacific pack of LA, Anaheim and San Jose by too much. Still, recent wins over the Sharks, Capitals, Stars and Panthers show Arizona is capable of beating high-level teams.
Blackhawks: Corey Crawford, Andrew Shaw, Marian Hossa (doubtful)
Coyotes: Joe Vitale, Martin Hanzal, Anders Lindback, Michael Stone
How to watch
When: 7:30 p.m. CT
Where: United Center, Chicago
TV: CSN Chicago