Chicago Blackhawks Eye On The Enemy: Arizona Coyotes

By Mario Tirabassi
Feb 4, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) skates past Arizona Coyotes center Max Domi (16) during the third period at Gila River Arena. The Blackhawks won 5-4 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 4, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) skates past Arizona Coyotes center Max Domi (16) during the third period at Gila River Arena. The Blackhawks won 5-4 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

Blackhawks, Coyotes Both Finding Footing During February Stretch

On Thursday night, the Chicago Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes will square-off in their third and final game this season and their second meeting in the month of February. While the teams are currently at polar-opposite positions in the Western Conference standings, both teams have found relative levels of success as this month has worn on.

The Blackhawks enter Thursday’s game at the United Center after back-to-back wins over the Buffalo Sabres and the Central Division leading Minnesota Wild, and have won seven of their last eight games, including a win over the Coyotes back on February 2.

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For Arizona, in a season that yet again has them looking up at most of the rest of the NHL, there is some solace in their play since the calendar turned to a new year. The Coyotes are 10-9-2 in 2017 and 5-3-1 in February so far. But, as with many teams at the bottom end of the standings, Arizona finds themselves in the middle of trade talks as the March 1 NHL Trade Deadline approaches.

So what kind of team will the Blackhawks be hosting on Thursday as the Coyotes come to town for the final time this season? We were able to catch-up with Sarah Hall to discuss Thursday’s game and get an insight to the Coyotes and their future

Q & A With Sarah Hall (Editorial Contributor, Five For Howling-SBNation)

1) With multiple Coyotes players rumored to be moved by the trade deadline, which player would be missed the most if they were dealt by or on March 1?

Radim Vrbata and Martin Hanzal would be missed greatly by the team. Vrbata is leading the team in points 12 goals and 29 assists for 41 points and Hanzal is leading with 15 goals and 9 assists for 24 points the second highest scoring forward on the team.

Vrbata came back to Arizona because it felt like home. Hanzal has been playing for the Coyotes since 2006 and is on of the mainstays for leadership on the team. They have finally found the chemistry they needed with Tobias Rieder and Max Domi on the first line, losing both of them could take the wind out of the Coyotes sails, but they are also only seven points behind Dallas, whom they play on Friday.

2) The Coyotes have good future pieces in place for the franchise already (Dvorak, Domi, O. Ekman-Larsson, etc.), which player is most important to the Coyotes contending again?

Oliver Ekman-Larsson has struggled this season, either from his revolving door of defensive partners or an injury we didn’t know about, but he is finally looking like himself again. The team goes as OEL goes.

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To have a stud defenseman is great, but the Coyotes also have three others who are coming into their own on defense as well, some we will see this year and next. Anthony DeAngelo (character issues notwithstanding) is one of the top right-handed defensive in the league. Kyle Wood is also a top talent they have down in Tucson. Jakob Chychrun took his roster spot at 18 from some legitimate NHL players. They have a top four in the making that will be a nightmare for years and years to come.

Forward wise, look towards Max Domi having a healthy year, Christian Dvorak completely dominating as a second line center in his first year as an NHLer and you see Dylan Strome, Lawson Crouse, Clayton Keller, Rieder, Jordan Martinook, Christian Fischer and Nick Merkley. They don’t have just one player that will make them contenders, they have a backlog of amazing drafted talent. That’s how they’ll start fighting for a playoff spot again.

3) Is Mike Smith the most physical goaltender in the league? He seems to have to deal with the most contact from opposing players as any other goalie in the league.

Mike Smith is one of the most active goalies in the NHL. He plays the puck more than most goalies do, but he does it because he is so good at it. He can skate well, can handle the puck better than some third pairing defenders, but he also gets hit or takes trapezoid penalties more than most goalies.

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Smith also will fight back when he is hit or slashed, more than most goalies. He has a feisty streak and will let you know if you are in his space or causing an issue.

4) ______ is the reason the Coyotes will defeat the Blackhawks on Thursday.

An Angry Mike Smith. He was pulled out of a 3-1 game against the Ducks by concussion spotters and he was not happy about it. Look for him to have a massive game.

5) ______ is the biggest difficulty the Coyotes will face against the Blackhawks. 

Staying out of the box. The Coyotes and Blackhawks will forever have a rivalry, the games tend to be penalty driven and the games usually come down to who takes the last penalty/who has the last power play.

A big thanks to Sarah Hall for giving us some great insight to the Coyotes and their future ahead of Thursday’s game in Chicago. Puck drops at 7:30pm CST and can be found on NBCSN and CSN-Chicago.