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Another Night on Mars: Blackhawks at Coyotes Preview

Chicago’s out in the desert on Saturday night.

Chicago Blackhawks v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks continue their march down the final games remaining on the schedule for the 2022-23 season with a return trip to the desert to face the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night.

These two teams met in the same barn just three weeks ago on a day more remembered as the one when the Blackhawks officially traded Patrick Kane to the New York Rangers. With a dark cloud hovering over Chicago while the roster was slowly decimated during that week ahead of the trade deadline, Arizona skated to a relatively easy 4-1 win.

The Coyotes enter this game on as much of a heater as they’ll experience this season, winning five of their last six — including a 3-2 win at home over the Canucks on Thursday night. Their last two losses both came in overtime, which means Arizona has points in seven straight games (5-0-2 overall). Because of all that, Arizona’s up to 26th in the league standings with 63 points in a nice 69 games, now well ahead of Chicago’s 54 in 68 in 30th — and last-place Columbus’ 49 in 68.

The offense has been especially potent for the Coyotes of late, averaging four goals per game in the last seven. Forward Clayton Keller — the team leader with 72 points (31 G, 41 A) — has been electric with 13 points (6 G, 7 A) in the last seven. Nick Schmaltz — remember him? — is second on the team with 46 points (21 G, 25 A) in 50 games and had a 10-game stretch with 11 points (7 G, 4 A) but he was injured last Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche and hasn’t played since, with his status for this game remaining as “questionable.”

Arizona’s locker room also looks a little different from that last matchup, with Jakob Chyrchrun, Nick Bjugstad, Nick Ritchie and Troy Stecher among the players traded away before the deadline — although the first two on that list were already being held out of games by the team these two teams played. The Coyotes did add to the organization by signing 2021 second-rounder Josh Doan to an entry-level deal this week — the son of the perpetually annoying Shane Doan — but he’s staying down in the AHL. There’s also been the recent development involved with goaltender Ivan Prosvetov, a 2018 fourth-round pick of the Coyotes who’s played twice this month, winning both games by stopping 68 of 71 shots against (1.50 goals-against average, .958 save percentage). No word yet on who’s starting for the Coyotes, though.

As for the Blackhawks, back-to-back wins have led to much consternation in the fan base on the effect those victories have had on The Plan™ for this season. It’s a fair concern, as Chicago is still in desperate need of the superstar talent that is typically available at the top of the NHL Draft. That chase for the draft lottery is about the only intriguing aspect of this team in the present, with the other possible exception of the younger players who are finding time in the lineup, such as 2020 first-rounder Lukas Reichel. Blue-line prospect Wyatt Kaiser could also be involved after signing with the team earlier this week and joining the team on this five-game road trip. But that won’t be known until the team gathers for its pre-game skate later on Saturday.

Let’s go Hawks(?)

Tale of the Tape

Blackhawks — Statistic — Coyotes

42.90% (32nd) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 44.27% (30th)

41.56% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 43.32% (30th)

2.51 (32nd) — Goals per game — 2.78 (27th)

3.50 (25th) — Goals against per game — 3.46 (24th)

53.6% (4th) — Faceoffs — 52% (10th)

16.7% (28th) — Power play — 19.8% (22nd)

76.7% (21st) — Penalty kill — 76.1% (24th)

How to watch

When: 9:30 p.m. CT

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago Plus

Radio: WGN 720