LIVE: Blackhawks, Coyotes tied 1-1

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LIVE: Blackhawks, Coyotes tied 1-1

Sunday, March 20, 2011
11:00 AM
Associated Press

(AP) -- The Phoenix Coyotes have won five in a row, making a playoff spot seem secure. The Chicago Blackhawks are mired in a bad stretch that included their worst performance of the season in their last game.

These contenders meet for the fourth and final time Sunday night, with the Blackhawks trying to avoid a fifth straight road loss.

Phoenix (39-23-11) is pushing San Jose for the Pacific Division lead, completing a perfect four-game trip with a 3-1 victory over NHL-leading Vancouver on Friday.

"It was a great trip," coach Dave Tippett said. "I give our guys a ton of credit. They battled hard every game."

Chicago (38-25-8) seemed to be solidifying its hold on a third straight postseason berth by winning a season-high eight straight Feb. 20-March 5. The defending Stanley Cup champion, though, has gone 1-2-2 in its last five and lost 5-0 at Dallas on Thursday - getting shut out for the second time this season.

"Tough one to explain. Nothing good about this game," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We should all absorb some responsibility on how bad we were. The importance of this game, and they keep getting bigger, we didn't respect the urgency."

The Blackhawks are among a group of teams fighting for the last few postseason spots in the Western Conference.

"We've gotta get prepared for a big game in Phoenix because it's gonna be just as important as this one," defenseman Brent Seabrook said.

Jonathan Toews was held without a point for the second time in his last 14 games. He has 11 goals and 10 assists in that stretch.

Sunday's game figures to be a tight one. All seven matchups between Phoenix and Chicago over the last two seasons have been decided by one or two goals, with four going to shootouts.

The teams split a pair of shootouts in February after the Coyotes won 2-1 at Chicago on Nov. 10 to open the season series.

The Blackhawks have gone 4 for 8 on the power play in those three games and are among the league leaders in power-play percentage at 23.5. The Coyotes are one of the worst penalty killing teams in the NHL at 78.6 percent - just behind Chicago's mark of 78.8.

Phoenix winger Radim Vrbata had a goal and an assist for the second straight game Friday, giving him six points during a four-game point streak. Captain Shane Doan added a goal and an assist to extend his point streak to seven games, with 10 points in that span.

"We've got different guys stepping up every night and that's a huge, huge week for our team to enhance their playoff chances," Tippett said.

Ilya Bryzgalov could be back in goal after Jason LaBarbera got the start Friday and made 46 saves. Bryzgalov had started the Coyotes' 10 previous contests, going 4-0-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average in his last four.

The Blackhawks have not lost five straight on the road since Feb. 24-March 31, 2009.

"We're going to Phoenix now and we know that we have to be better across the board and we have to prepare better when we're going into a game," Quenneville said.

Honda Road Ahead: Blackhawks look to get back on track to close regular season

Honda Road Ahead: Blackhawks look to get back on track to close regular season

Pat Boyle and Steve Konroyd break down the Blackhawks' upcoming schedule in the latest edition of the Blackhawks Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda dealers.

There are less than two weeks left in the NHL regular season and teams are jockeying for playoff seeding.

The Blackhawks have the best record in the Western Conference with 103 points. The Blackhawks' next two opponents, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Columbus Blue Jackets, also have 103 points. Washington leads the league with 106 points.

Wednesday the Hawks will travel to Pittsburgh. Two days later they host the Blue Jackets.

After that, the Blackhawks take on the Boston Bruins on Sunday. Boston is in line for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

"There's no easy games from here on out." Konroyd said in the video. "Even teams on the outside, looking in are playing for contracts next year."

Watch the video above to see Boyle and Konroyd discuss the upcoming matchups for the Blackhawks.

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks lose to Lightning in OT

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks lose to Lightning in OT

Here are some of Monday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Blackhawks blow three-goal lead, fall in OT at Lightning

How Cubs came to fully believe in the legend of Kyle Schwarber

White Sox agree to trade outfielder Peter Bourjos

Bulls Talk Podcast: March is Nikola Mirotic's month

Raiders-to-Vegas the latest in long line of NFL relocation drama, some of which included the Bears

Why Cubs fandom was inescapable in covering the greatest story in sports

Derek Holland ends spring on strong note as White Sox down Dodgers

Ex-Bear Brandon Marshall an early favorite at NFL owners meetings

Increased velocity has improved Anthony Swarzak's chances of making White Sox bullpen

Cubs will have Ian Happ one phone call away at Triple-A Iowa