LIVE: Blackhawks, Coyotes need shootout tied at 3

398266.jpg

LIVE: Blackhawks, Coyotes need shootout tied at 3

Sunday Feb. 27, 2011
11:00 a.m.

Associated Press
Things are looking a bit better for the Chicago Blackhawks, but they're far from feeling relaxed.

The Blackhawks look to continue their playoff push and win four straight for the first time in two months Sunday night when they host a Phoenix Coyotes team trying to avoid its first three-game losing streak since early November.

After being four points out of eighth place in the Western Conference following a loss to Columbus last Friday, Chicago (32-23-6) has reeled off three straight wins to pull within one point of the final playoff spot.

"It's all up to us what we do with it," defenseman Duncan Keith said after Thursday's 3-0 victory over Nashville.

Center Patrick Sharp and goaltender Corey Crawford again led the way for Chicago on Thursday.

Sharp had a goal and an assist, giving him four goals and three assists in his last four games. Crawford made 31 saves and is 5-1-1 with a 1.82 goals-against average in his last seven starts.

"(Thursday) I thought was a great team effort," Keith said. "That's what it's going to take."

Joel Quenneville was back on the bench Thursday after missing four games because of a bleeding ulcer. The coach is happy to see Chicago close the gap in the playoff race but knows there is still a lot of work to do with eight teams battling for the final four spots.

"I don't think we're ever in a place where we should feel comfortable," Quenneville said.

The Blackhawks, who haven't won four in a row since Dec. 17-26, have earned 12 of 16 points in their last eight games (5-1-2).

One of those one-point outings came in Arizona on Feb. 12.

Taylor Pyatt and Radim Vrbata scored in regulation for the Coyotes, while Ilya Bryzgalov made 31 saves and turned aside all three Chicago shootout attempts in a 3-2 win.

Phoenix is 5-1-0 against Chicago since the start of last season after being outscored 23-5 while losing the previous six meetings.

The Coyotes (33-21-9), five points ahead of the Blackhawks for fourth place in the West, arrive in Chicago to conclude a five-game road trip coming off back-to-back disappointing defeats.

After having a season-high eight-game winning streak snapped with an 8-3 loss to Tampa Bay on Wednesday, Phoenix squandered a 2-0, first-period lead in Friday's 5-3 defeat to Columbus. Vrbata, David Schlemko and Lauri Korpikoski all scored Friday for the Coyotes, while Bryzgalov made 29 saves but lost for the first time in nine games.

An inability to kill penalties has spurred Phoenix's sudden struggles.

The Coyotes allowed the Blue Jackets to convert 3 of 9 power plays after the Lightning had three man-advantage goals on four opportunities. They had killed 26 of 31 penalties during their winning streak.

"You can't get in a game like this and beat yourself," coach Dave Tippet said after the loss in Columbus. "We jumped out early, we're playing a real strong road game and decided we were going to take a bunch of penalties. That's just unacceptable for us right now."

Phoenix, which hasn't lost three in a row since Nov. 5-8, might fare better against a Chicago team that is just 1 for 8 on the power play in its last four games.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

First goal with Blackhawks 'a release' for Tomas Jurco

First goal with Blackhawks 'a release' for Tomas Jurco

Tomas Jurco's reaction to his first goal on Monday night was as much celebration as a little bit of relief. The forward, acquired by the Blackhawks about a month ago, had had a few great scoring chances in recent games but just couldn't capitalize.

Finally, he got that first of the season against Tampa Bay.

"It's kind of a release, you know?" Jurco said on Wednesday. "I've had a lot of good chances and it would just never go in for some reason. Obviously I'm very happy that it went in and hopefully this is the start of, I would say, more luck for me."

Looking for consistency in his own game as well as a consistent spot in the lineup, Jurco was looking for a boost of confidence. Getting that first goal could be part of it, as a bit of a weight disappears with that zero in the goal column. 

"That's a hurdle that can be in the back of your mind a lot and all of a sudden it could be a nice release," coach Joel Quenneville said of that first goal. "He's progressing in our team game, technically. Whether it's his pace of play or going to the right areas quickly, we're looking for progression. We saw it [Monday] night and I think he'll continue to get better off that. But certainly that should help him get confidence as we go along here."

[Buy Blackhawks tickets right here]

Jurco's been around the net, something the Blackhawks always encourage, for most of those scoring opportunities. Perhaps some of that puck luck wasn't quite there. But Jurco is gaining confidence in recent games, and getting that goal could boost it that much more.

"I've always said, especially in my case, scoring helps that confidence come easier. It brings that fun to the game," Jonathan Toews said. "Maybe if you're not feeling it or not playing with high energy, at a certain point in a game when you score, for some reason you get that jolt, you get that jump. For [Jurco], he's been playing well when he's been in, and no doubt that scoring a goal like that can help boost confidence and help him find his game, which we know he has and will continue to show."

The scoring hurdle has been cleared and Jurco is gaining confidence. Will he carve out a consistent spot in the lineup? Quenneville has some options through the bottom six. That, coupled with the Blackhawks playing inconsistent hockey lately and missing that four-line rotation, Jurco's been one of several who have been in and out of the lineup. But Quenneville said on Wednesday, "I don't see making constant changes once the [playoffs] begin." If Jurco keeps getting chances and capitalizing on a few, and if he ends up as part of a rotation that's successful again, he could stick.

Jurco waited a little bit for that first goal. He hopes it's just the start.

"You know eventually it's going to go in but it was just frustrating. Another game and another and another with good chances and it just wouldn't go in. So it's a big release," Jurco said. "Hopefully I'll keep going, keep producing."

Fast Break Morning Update: Hawks smash Penguins; Are Cubs better than last year?

Fast Break Morning Update: Hawks smash Penguins; Are Cubs better than last year?

Big first period paces Blackhawks over Penguins

On paper, have Cubs put together a better roster than last year's World Series team?

Why the Bears finally feel like they're in striking distance of a winning team

Tyler Saladino, Jose Abreu homer as White Sox tie Padres in Arizona finale

Bastian Schweinsteiger says he is ready for new challenge with the Fire

NBA Buzz: Nikola Mirotic making Bulls' offseason decision tougher

Cubs finalize Opening Day 25-man roster

Bears Chairman George McCaskey sets 2017 demands for Ryan Pace, John Fox

Comfy Kero: Quick hits from Blackhawks-Penguins

White Sox pitching staff nearly complete with prospect Zack Burdi headed to Triple-A