The Chicago Blackhawks are not a good hockey team this season. Neither are the Arizona Coyotes, but they’re just a smidge above the Hawks. These two teams will meet at the United Center on Friday night.
FEEL THE EXCITMENT!
Arizona enters this game with a 13-19-5 record, good for 31 points and a .419 points percentage — each of which are good for 28th in the league, although the San Jose Sharks are tied with the Coyotes at 31 points but with two more games played.
The Coyotes were on the ice Thursday night, losing 6-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers — another team floundering near the bottom of the league standings. That loss has continued a market correction for Arizona, which had a brief 6-3-1 spurt in December, including wins over the Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche and Toronto Maple Leafs. But the loss to Philadelphia was Arizona’s third straight and now on the tail end of a back-to-back, the Coyotes are in a less-than-ideal situation to snap that skid (expect that they’re facing the Blackhawks, of course).
Arizona’s brightest young star continues to shine this season, with Clayton Keller up to a team-high 36 points (14 G, 22 A) in 37 games. Lawson is having another nice season with 22 points (14 G, 8 A) in 35 games. But perhaps the biggest spark for Arizona came with the return of two players from injury in late November: old friend Nick Schmaltz (17 points in 20 games) and stud blue-liner Jakob Chychrun (18 points in 20 games). Trade rumors remain the primary topic of conversation around Chychrun and he’s done nothing to hurt his value this season. There’s not much to write about beyond that handful of players, though, which is a significant chunk of the problem in Arizona — although that’s according to The Plan™ for them as well.
Another key has been the steady play of Karel Vejmelka in net, with an 11-11-4 record, .906 save percentage and 3.23 goals-against average. Those numbers may not appear all that great, but considering the dearth of talent in front of Vejmelka, some respect can be paid to his performance this season. Vejmelka was in net on Thursday night, though, so backup Connor Ingram and his less impressive numbers (2-7-1, .878, 4.24, respectively) may be in net for the Coyotes on Friday.
As for the Hawks, it’s an even more dire situation with the team on a downward spiral that’s flirting with defiance of the laws of physics. Chicago’s lost 21 of its last 23 and spent last weekend getting its face kicked in by two other bottom-feeders in the aforementioned San Jose and the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Coyotes may be bad, but “bad” teams have had little trouble beating the Hawks lately — and that was with Patrick Kane in the lineup, which may or may not be the case on Friday. Lukas Reichel is up from Rockford and a few other IceHogs could be navigating the blue line, affording Blackhawks fans a chance to give something could actually matter for the team’s future while the present offers nothing but misery.
Let’s go Hawks or whatever.
Tale of the Tape (statistics from this season)
Blackhawks — Statistic — Coyotes
42.18% (32nd) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 43.50% (31st)
40.51% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 42.00% (30th)
2.16 (32nd) — Goals per game — 2.86 (25th)
3.76 (28th) — Goals against per game — 3.70 (27th)
56.6% (1st) — Faceoffs — 45.5% (30th)
20.2% (23rd) — Power play — 20.8% (21st)
73.3% (25th) — Penalty kill — 72.0% (27th)
How to watch
When: 7:30 p.m. CT
Where: United Center, Chicago
TV: NBC Sports Chicago PLUS
Radio: WGN 720
Live stream: Sling TV
(Quick note: The projected lineups will be part of another article that’ll run later in the day as part of a shift in how we handle previews here.)