Season Series: This is the first meeting of the season for Chicago and Phoenix. The teams split four games last season.
Big Story: With the Blackhawks and Coyotes both looking like they'll be jockeying for postseason position for the next seven months, a win in this early season matchup could pay enormous dividends in April. The likelihood of a win could be greater for Chicago, if they manage to get the banged up Marian Hossa in the lineup Tuesday.
Blackhawks: As Chicago takes off for a two-game road swing through Phoenix and Colorado this week, all eyes are on Hossa, who suffered an upper-body injury last week in the Blackhawks' 4-3 win over Winnipeg. Hossa has not returned to the ice since, missing Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Bruins and three practices. While the Hawks did manage to get a point against the defending champs in their one outing without the star Slovak winger, they certainly could use him. At the time of his injury, Hossa had tallied three points in the previous two games.
Beyond events on the Hossa front, Chicago has to be satisfied with an early-season homestand in which the team collected five of a possible six points. If the Hawks can continue to pick up points at that clip -- or even close to it -- they will easily save themselves the anxiety of waiting until the season's final day to book a postseason trip.
Coyotes: The last two seasons many hockey pundits had Phoenix left for dead only to see the team book back-to-back postseason appearances. With the offseason departure of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov the Coyotes were widely expected to fall outside the top eight yet again, but four games into the season Phoenix's annual Lazarus impression seems to be getting under way. Despite starting the season on a three-game road trip, the Coyotes have rebounded from a 6-3 loss in San Jose in their season opener to pick up five of a possible six points in their last three games.
Phoenix's only loss in its last three games was of the shootout variety, and in its last two outings the team has outscored the reborn Jets and a Predators team widely expected to be one of the top teams in the West by a combined score of 9-3. Saturday's win over the Jets was the Coyotes' home opener and it's probably time for them to get cozy and comfortable. Phoenix plays eight of its next 10 games in the valley, a schedule that could only help the team stay alive in the early stages of the postseason race.
Who's Hot: The ageless Shane Doan has gotten off to a rollicking start for the Coyotes, tallying three goals and four assists in the first four games of the season. ... Chicago's Patrick Kane is nearly as hot as Doan. Kane has six points in four games so far this year.
Injury Report: While Hossa did not practice Monday, the Hawks are still optimistic that he'll be in the lineup Tuesday night.
Stat Pack: Could Doan be turning the trick of fine wine? The Coyotes' captain is almost certain to slow down his pace over the course of a full season, but if he's looking to break his career high of 78 points set four years ago, he's off to a good start. At this pace Doan would finish an 82-game season with 143 points.
Puck Drop: Phoenix and Chicago didn't meet in either of the Coyotes' past two postseason appearances, but the two teams have had their run-ins. The Coyotes have generally played the Hawks well, taking five of the last eight meetings between them, and with the Blackhawks expected to be one of the top contenders in the West this year, an early season win for Pheonix might start turning some heads in the conference.