Blackhawks-Coyotes: Five things to watch

Blackhawks-Coyotes: Five things to watch
November 14, 2013, 12:00 pm
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After getting a few well-deserved days off, the Blackhawks are returning to the action as they host the Phoenix Coyotes tonight. Catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet beginning at 6:30 with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

The biggest reason the Chicago Blackhawks disliked the Phoenix Coyotes was signed by the San Jose Sharks last offseason. Still, the Coyotes have done very well against the Blackhawks at the United Center, where they’ve gone 6-1-1 since Dave Tippett became their head coach.

“They’re a team that plays pretty simple,” Patrick Kane said. “You look at their lineup, they don’t have a lot of superstars. But they have good goaltending and play a good team game.”

As coach Joel Quenneville said it, “we want to kill it tonight in the worst way. They play a smart, patient game. We have to be respectful for what they can do but we have to do whatever we can and find a way to win.”

[MORE: Blackhawks aim to end Coyotes' Chicago success]

Ah, but there’s always more to a matchup than that. So here’s a look at Five Things to watch for in tonight’s game between the Coyotes and Blackhawks.

1. If we knocked the Blackhawks’ power play when it was bad, let’s give it credit for now being consistent. The Blackhawks are currently ranked fifth in the NHL on the man advantage, which has scored at least one goal in three of their last four games. They’ll want to see if they can add to that tonight against Phoenix, which has a penalty kill not that much better than the Blackhawks’ (25th).

2. The Blackhawks want to beware of Mike Smith’s puck play. The goaltender’s ability to do this basically gives the Coyotes another defenseman back there. Still, it can be attacked. The Blackhawks will want to fire the puck right back at Smith after he plays in, in the chance that he might be out of position.
3. Jeremy Morin gets back in the lineup, so this is a good chance for him to show Quenneville he can play more of a defensive game. Morin said it’s more about adjusting to the NHL level in playing better in that department. “It’s there,” Morin said about the defense. “It’s just bringing it every night is tough. You’re playing against pretty good players up here and it’s at a different speed. But it comes with experience, and I’ll get another opportunity tonight.”

[RELATED: Niklas Hjalmarsson adding offense to already solid defense]
4. Speaking of players to watch out for, Coyotes center Mike Ribeiro ranks up there, too. The Blackhawks didn’t have to worry about him last season when he was with the Washington Capitals. But Ribeiro’s fared well against the Blackhawks, recording 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 29 career games against them. He can be a magician on the ice, and the Blackhawks don’t want him to pull his act on them.
5. Who’s tonight’s pick to click? After careful deliberation (not really), we’ll go with Andrew Shaw. What better way to celebrate a new contract?