With a chance to snap a three-game losing streak tonight, the Chicago Blackhawks will visit a woeful bunch of Arizona Coyotes
Last season, it always seemed like the Chicago Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes would engage in high-scoring, high-anger contests. So here’s our setup for tonight’s game between the teams: Neither squad is scoring much, and both have plenty to be angry about.
The Blackhawks have lost three consecutive games in regulation for the first time this season, the latest defeat coming with a 3-1 setback against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. The Blackhawks weren’t bad in the loss … it just seemed like they were playing for a point down the stretch.
Meanwhile, the Coyotes are in full-on rebuild mode, which leaves them as one of two NHL teams without 40 points yet this season. Granted, the Coyotes’ 38 points are far better than Colorado’s 28, but it’s easy to see things aren’t going well in the desert.
More from Analysis
- Blackhawks: Key Takeaways from 3-2 win over the Blues
- Blackhawks: Grading Connor Murphy and a position comparison
- Blackhawks: Shuffling the lines to try and spark offense at 5 on 5
- These Lineup Changes could Solve the Blackhawks’ Scoring Problem
- Chicago Blackhawks Winning- Temper Those Expectations
Arizona is a pretty lackluster 11-12-2 at home this season, and the team has a goal differential of negative-45. So while the Coyotes do have some things to look forward to (as pointed out by Howlin’ Hockey’s Alex Temes in this week’s “Eye on the Enemy“), this is a team the Blackhawks should do away with easily.
And that happened earlier this season at the United Center, as Chicago beat Arizona 4-0 behind a 22-save shutout from Scott Darling, two goals from Marian Hossa and single strikes from Artem Anisimov and Dennis Rasmussen.
Chicago Blackhawks projected lineup
Let’s take a look at how the Blackhawks will line up tonight:
Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa
So there’s a good bit to talk about here. Schmaltz will remain on the top line with Toews, while it appears Hossa will go back to the third line and Panik will return to the top three after a one-game hiatus.
Coach Joel Quenneville is clearly just throwing things at a wall to see what sticks right now. Against Arizona, you can probably get away with that and two points.
After splitting Panarin and Kane for some of Tuesday’s loss, they were back together this morning. We’ll see how long that last in the actual game.
The third line at practice actually included Vincent Hinostroza for Hossa, who was taking a maintenance morning. I’m not sure if that means Hinostroza is scratched, but I’m hopeful he’d slot in for Desjardins on the fourth line, as that makes far more sense. A fourth line of Hinostroza-Kero-Hartman could be a solid bottom-six threat.
Also, Kruger is back in the lineup after missing the previous game. That’s always good for puck possession, something the Blackhawks continue to struggle with.
The defensive pairings aren’t clear, but we can all hope Michal Kempny draws back into the lineup. He probably won’t, but we can hope. Otherwise, you’ll see some combination of Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Gustav Forsling.
Corey Crawford gets the start in net.
Arizona Coyotes projected lineup
Let’s move over to the Coyotes and see what they offer:
Now, this lineup is subject to a pretty important change. According to Coyotes beat writer Sarah McLellan, Domi is a game-time decision. He’s been out since December with a broken hand, but could return for tonight’s game.
Rieder has been playing with Hanzal and Vrbata up top, while the second and third lines have been a little different than they are above, with Josh Jooris suffering the healthy scratch should Domi return.
Da Windy City
Vrbata, constantly a Blackhawks trade target, is the only guy on the team with more than 30 points (34). So you can see how bad of shape the Coyotes are in offensively. They do have guys who can produce — or at least they could in the past. None of them are doing much producing this season. Just be wary of the likes of Rieder, Hanzal and Domi, should the latter return.
Ekman-Larsson is a solid blueliner, and guys like Stone, Chychrun and Murphy have shown flashes. But this is a group that really, really struggles to hang on to the puck. As in, the Coyotes are dead-last in the league in 5-on-5 Corsi-for (46.24 percent). Take a young team and have it struggle to maintain possession, and you’re going to see what’s in Arizona this year.
World’s Greatest Actor (TM) Mike Smith is trying to hold up this operation. He managed to make the All-Star Game out of the Pacific because the Coyotes needed a rep. His .917/2.86 statline obviously isn’t good, but it’s probably better than what some others would produce behind a team this bad.
TV listings and prediction
Game time: 8 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: WGN 720-AM
Live streaming: CSN Live
Radio streaming: WGN Radio App
Prediction: I know the last time the Blackhawks faced a bottom-feeding team in the Tampa Bay Lightning, it didn’t feel like that was the case when the game played out on ice. But the thing is, while Tampa was at the bottom of the East at that time, they were really part of a group of East teams that are more “meh” than “blow it up.”
The Coyotes … they’re bad. I mean, the Blackhawks have given up a bajillion shots to almost every opponent this season, and they allowed just 22 to Arizona in the last meeting.
Now, the Blackhawks have shown if they’re not awake against even bad teams, they can fall behind (recall the Colorado game a few weeks ago). And this game is on the road, where the Blackhawks won’t have last change.
That being said, the Blackhawks are just a far better team than the Coyotes right now, regardless of whether Domi plays for the hosts. While there might be some nastiness in this contest, I think the Blackhawks will look past that and get back on track. I’m going for a 3-1 Blackhawks win.