Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011
By tightening up their defense, the Phoenix Coyotes have quickly put a disappointing stretch behind them.
The Coyotes look to win their fourth in a row Saturday night when they host the banged-up Chicago Blackhawks, who hope to bounce back from a discouraging loss heading into the finale of a six-game road trip.
After recording consecutive shutouts for the first time in his career against Minnesota last Saturday and Colorado on Monday, Ilya Bryzgalov made 16 saves for Phoenix (28-19-9) in Wednesday's 3-2 overtime win in Dallas. Radim Vrbata scored a power-play goal 1:13 into the extra period for the Coyotes, who are one-point ahead of eighth-place Calgary in the Western Conference.
"We have to play the way we've played the last three games," said Vrbata, who has three goals in his last two.
That means continuing to limit the number of shots their goaltender has to face.
Phoenix has allowed an average of 23.0 shots in winning its last three after yielding an average of 34.3 in its previous six. The Coyotes had lost six of eight prior to this winning streak, allowing at least four goals in each of those defeats.
"Our identity is to play a tight game, like you've seen the last three," forward Lee Stempniak said. "The big thing for us is to not have to go out and score five or six goals to get a win, if we can limit them to two goals, we have a way better chance to get a win."
The Coyotes are 20-0-3 when allowing two goals or fewer.
The Blackhawks (28-22-5) scored twice just over four minutes into Friday's game against Dallas, and took a 3-0 lead less than 13 minutes in, but ended up losing 4-3 in a shootout. It was the fifth loss in seven games for Chicago, which has been outscored 9-2 in the third period of those defeats.
"Every time we lose, it's the same thing that happens and we don't change it," said captain Jonathan Toews, who has two goals and 10 assists during a season-high six-game point streak. "We had a good first period, and we had a good effort, we were doing the right things and somehow it goes away in the second. I don't understand what's going on and the writing's on the wall. We get satisfied and we give teams a chance to come back ..."
The Blackhawks had a tough time Friday overcoming the loss of right wing Fernando Pisani, center Ryan Johnson and left wing Viktor Stalberg, as all three sustained upper-body injuries and didn't return. Coach Joel Quenneville said the three are day-to-day and will be evaluated on Saturday.
The Blackhawks are 11th in the West and three points behind the Flames, but Quenneville is trying to remain optimistic.
"We have a chance to be .500 on this trip, so we look at it in a positive way, and go from there," he said.
Quenneville is expected to go with Corey Crawford in net after backup Marty Turco played in his return to Dallas. Crawford, who has never faced Phoenix, is 1-3-0 with a 2.53 goals-against average in his last four starts after going 4-0-1 with a 0.97 GAA and two shutouts in his previous five.
This will be the first meeting between these teams since the Coyotes' 2-1 win in Chicago on Nov. 10. Phoenix is 4-1-0 against the Blackhawks since the start of last season, after being outscored 23-5 while losing the previous six meetings.
New Orleans has struggled in back-to-back scenarios, going 5-7 when playing for the second consecutive night.
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