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Chicago Blackhawks: Can They Get On Track In Desert?

By Mike Brennan
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After a couple of disappointing losses, to say the least, the Chicago Blackhawks are back in action once again tonight against the Arizona Coyotes in the desert. While going into Arizona has never been the best trip for the Blackhawks, this video of theirs does not put a lot of fear into me as a fan.

No matter how cheesy and laughable that video was, it does carry some truth. As of late, the Coyotes’ home arena has in fact been an “attack zone.” In their last 12 games at the Gila River Arena, the Coyotes are 8-2-2. And that home record has catapulted them to second place in the cluster-mess that is the Pacific Division. What makes that record even worse for the ‘Hawks is that Chicago has a 6-8-3 away record this season.

Arizona is coming off of a 2-1 win in Colorado on Sunday night. In that tilt, defenseman Michael Stone and Arizona’s leading scorer Mikkel Boedker each had goals.

The scouting report for the Coyotes in this one is that Arizona has a good amount of offensive firepower in its lineup, with the 12th-best goals-for statistic in the league, according to Hockey-Reference.com. Their top line of Tobias Rieder, former Blackhawk Antoine Vermette and Boedker has a combined 60 points through 35 games. Right wing Boedker is the leading scorer with 12 goals and 16 assists.

This is also a team that can go two lines deep with its scoring, as Max Domi and Anthony Duclair have a combined 45 points on the season while on the second line. Left winger Domi is the second on the team in scoring with 10 goals and 16 assists. Having a below-average possession game, the Coyotes tend to capitalize on the chances they get on the counterattack.

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With this pretty decent ability to put the puck in opposing teams’ nets, they have a tough time keeping the puck out of their own net. They currently sit 27th in the league in the goals-against stat, with 109. Along with this stat, their top offensive line has a plus/minus rating of minus-19, though their second line has a rating of plus-5. Their top two defensive pairings have a combined rating of minus-8. Combine those ratings with the fact that goalies Mike Smith (injured) and Anders Lindback each have a combined goals-against average hovering around 3.00, and the Blackhawks should have a perfect night to get their offense back on track.

Joe Vitale, Martin Hanzal, Boyd Gordon and Smith are all on the injury list for Arizona. So Blackhawks fan will not have to have terrible flashbacks to the 2012 Western Conference quarterfinals, when Smith broke every Blackhawks fan’s heart when he stood on his head all series.

As for the Blackhawks, they are coming off two losses in which they were outscored by a combined margin of 6-1. On Monday morning, it was announced the Blackhawks’ front office made some roster moves. Marcus Kruger was finally placed on injured reserve, they recalled Erik Gustafsson and they placed David Rundblad on waivers. While these are somewhat small moves, they are moves that needed to be made. They also show that the front office does in fact see the dumpster fire that is the Blackhawks blue line.

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So this game against the Coyotes will most likely see Gustafsson rotating in on the old third pairing with Rob Scuderi and Michal Rozsival, who desperately need help down there, as they are forgetting how to play hockey. In 27 games with Rockford, Gustafsson has eight goals and 11 points.

This will be the first of three meetings between these two teams, so neither team has anything up close to go off of this season. Last season, the Blackhawks went 2-0-1 against the Coyotes.

Lindback will be in net for the Coyotes and boasts a .900 save percentage on the season. Coach Joel Quenneville has not announced a starter yet between the pipes. Either way, Corey Crawford has a .925 save percentage through 30 games, and Scott Darling has a .908 save percentage through eight games.

Puck drops at 8 p.m. Central time and can be seen on Comcast SportsNet Chicago and WGN 720 on the radio, per usual. Go ’Hawks.

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