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Action Needs an Audience: Blackhawks at Coyotes preview

Three games out west begin on Thursday night.

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Arizona Coyotes v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It’s the start of a three-game road trip for the Chicago Blackhawks, who head to the desert on Thursday night to face the Arizona Coyotes.

It’s been a season to forget for the Coyotes, who have the league’s worst record (6-22-3) with just 15 points amassed through 31 games. The off-ice happenings have featured stadium and ownership drama while the on-ice happenings are full of defeats. Arizona has the lowest rate of goals scored (2.24) and the highest rate of goals allowed (3.77) per game in the league. Its power play is ranked 29th in the league. Its penalty kill is 31st. Its expected goal share is 32nd. Get the picture?

The focus is clearly on the future in Arizona, with the team having four first-round picks and six second-round picks available in the next two drafts. There’s been talk that the team could add to that bevvy if they decide to move on from defenseman Jakob Chychrun, a 23-year-old who’s been one of the few bright spots for the Coyotes. But he hasn’t played in about a month while dealing with an upper-body injury. Clayton Keller (10 G, 13 A) is the team’s leading offensive weapon while Shayne Gostisbehere (6 G, 15 A) has provided plenty of offense from the blue line. In net, a rotating cast of goalies has combined for a collective save percentage of .891 and a goals-against average of 3.61. There’s just not a lot here.

As for the Blackhawks, it remains a five-game losing streak despite a significantly better performance in the second and third periods against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night. No major developments emerged form the morning skate, either. Fleury is the expected starter and, although, Brett Connolly was placed back on the active roster, he still has one game left on his suspension so he’ll remain sidelined this game. How the 18 skaters will fare in the lineup is anyone’s guess at this point.

But it’s an extremely winnable game against the worst team in the league, so why not win it?

Let’s go Hawks.

Blackhawks — Statistic — Coyotes

46.84% (26th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 46.38% (28th)

45.78% (29th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 44.81% (32nd)

2.24 (30th) — Goals per game — 2.24 (32nd)

3.39 (25th) — Goals against per game — 3.77 (32nd)

48.7% (21st) — Faceoffs — 48.1% (23rd)

18.9% (17th) — Power play — 14.3% (29th)

75.3% (28th) — Penalty kill — 70.2% (31st)

Projected lineups (subject to change)

Blackhawks

Hagel — Borgstrom — Kane

DeBrincat — Toews — Entwistle

Kubalik — Dach — Kurashev

Carpenter — Strome — Khaira

de Haan — Jones

Stillman — Murphy

McCabe — C. Jones

Fleury

Soderblom

Coyotes

Keller — Hayton — Schmaltz

Crouse — Larsson — Kessel

Roussel — Fischer — Eriksson

Ladd — Boyd — O’Brien

Gostisbehere — Mayo

Moser — Stralman

Capobianco — Lyubushkin

Vejmelka/Wedgewood

How to watch

When: 8 p.m. CT

Where: Gila River Arena, Phoenix

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Webstream: ESPN+