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Hear You Me: Blackhawks vs. Coyotes Preview

One team is probably just good enough to not be the worst in the league — and the other is the Blackhawks

Arizona Coyotes v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

In a game between two professional sports franchises that have zero interest in actually, ya know, winning the game, the Chicago Blackhawks host the Arizona Coyotes on Friday night at the United Center.

The thoroughness of the intentional ineptitude of both teams is on full display when checking out the “Tale of the Tape” below. About the only good thing to be said about either team is that the Blackhawks win a higher percentage of faceoffs than any other team in the NHL — and look at all the good it’s done them! These are two teams that don’t score very well, don’t stop teams from scoring very well, don’t possess the puck well, don’t generate chances well and don’t play special teams well.

Excited for this one yet? Of course not!

The Coyotes enter this game on what’s about as hot of a streak as they’ll be able to muster this season, having won three of their last five games. But that was more of a progression to the mean after Arizona lost 11 of 12. This season means virtually nothing to Arizona, a team looking to build things back up with a comical number of draft picks in the next three NHL drafts, including three picks apiece in the second and third rounds of 2024 and four second-round picks in 2025. Still feels like this team may not be good again until, what ... 2030?

The main offensive weapon remains Clayton Keller, who’s on pace for a career-high with 42 points (18 G, 24 A) in 51 games. Arizona’s No. 2 point producer — defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere — is out with an injury, so forwards Lawson Crouse (28 points in 46 games) and Nick Schmaltz (28 points in 35 games) will provide whatever offensive firepower Arizona can muster. Jakob Chychrun has not been traded yet, so he’ll be the main player to watch on the blue line.

If there’s been a pleasant surprise in the desert this winter, it’s been the play of goaltender Karel Vejmelka, who has a 14-17-4 record — which isn’t all that bad, considering Arizona’s overall record of 17-28-6 — even if his other numbers aren’t awe-inspiring: .908 save percentage and 3.16 goals-against average. Considering the team he’s playing behind, though, Vejlmelka has held up quite well against a deluge of shots and chances this season.

The first meeting between these two sides came on Jan. 6 at the United Center, with the Blackhawks winning 2-0 in what was probably their most complete performance of the season. That win halted Chicago’s massive 2-20-1 slide and kicked off a stretch that saw the Blackhawks win six of seven. Lately, though, the losses are back with the Blackhawks dropping four of five.

It’s genuinely anyone’s guess as to what’ll happen in this game — such is the reality with two teams toiling at the bottom of the standings. Arizona sits in 29th as of this writing, tied with the Anaheim Ducks at 50 points but having done so in one game fewer, resulting in a mild edge in points percentage (.392 to Anaheim’s .385). Chicag’s down in 31st with 35 points in 49 games but still within shouting (falling?) distance of dead-last Columbus at 34 points in 51 games.

Let’s go ... Hawks?

Tale of the Tape

Blackhawks — Statistic — Coyotes

42.61% (32nd) — Corsi For — 44.42% (30th)

40.56% (31st) — Expected goals for — 43.28% (30th)

2.45 (31st) — Goals per game — 2.59 (28th)

3.61 (27th) — Goals against per game — 3.47 (25th)

55.8% (1st) — Faceoffs — 45.8% (30th)

19.2% (24th) — Power play — 18.4% (26th)

75.7% (24th) — Penalty kill — 74.7% (26th)

How to watch

When: 7:30 p.m. CT

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Live stream: NBC Sports app, ESPN+