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.

Should Blackhawks' next assistant coach be Joel Quenneville's choice?

Should Blackhawks' next assistant coach be Joel Quenneville's choice?

On April 22, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman vented his frustrations on the team’s all-too-abrupt exit from the postseason, adding that he and coach Joel Quenneville, “are going to work together to make sure that this never happens again.”

There will be plenty of decisions for the two to mull between now and September, when the Blackhawks convene for training camp. When it comes to the assistant head coach vacancy, however, that might need to be decided with a more one-sided approach. That choice ultimately should be made by Quenneville.

In a recent podcast, Pat Boyle and I discussed the Blackhawks’ need to work together on some upcoming decisions. But with the assistant coach, the head coach has to have the loudest voice. The head coach probably should even have the final vote. The relationship between coaches has to be there because they’re around each other constantly. They’ve got to be on the same page. There has to be trust from Day 1.

As for when the Blackhawks name that assistant, there appears to be nothing imminent. A source said Monday that the Blackhawks and Ulf Samuelsson have been in communication about the job — Chris Kuc of the Tribune first reported on Samuelsson on Sunday. On paper it looks like it would be a great fit. Samuelsson and Quenneville played several seasons together with the Hartford Whalers, along with current Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen. The relationship with Samuelsson has been there for a long time and it would make for a smoother transition. It might also provide somewhat of a panacea for Quenneville after former assistant Mike Kitchen, whose friendship with Quenneville also went back to their playing days, was fired last month.

Earlier this month Bowman told the Sun-Times that Quenneville will have a big role in the Blackhawks’ finding their next assistant coach, with the final choice being a “joint collaboration.” We get that there’s an order to these things and everyone has to be in agreement with the final decision. But in the end the head coach has to be 100-percent happy with his immediate staff. So whoever the next assistant coach is, the decision has to be 100 percent Quenneville’s.

Blackhawks share condolences after passing of six-time All Star Bill White

Blackhawks share condolences after passing of six-time All Star Bill White

The Blackhawks shared their condolences after the passing of former defenseman Bill White on Monday.

"The Chicago Blackhawks organization extends its thoughts and heartfelt condolences to Bill White's family as we mourn his loss," the team's statement read. "He will be remembered as a leader, generous teammate and tough player to play against. His energetic style helped the Blackhawks see great success during his tenure with the team."

White spent seven seasons with the Blackhawks — part of a nine-year NHL career — scoring 30 goals and tallying 149 assists.

He appeared in six consecutive All-Star Games from 1969 to 1974 and helped the Blackhawks to the playoffs in all seven of his seasons in Chicago.

White also had a brief stint as the Blackhawks' head coach, manning the bench for the final 46 games of the 1976-77 season.