Season Series: This is the third of four meetings, with both of the first two going to the visiting team. In their most recent meeting six days ago, Phoenix marched into the United Center and left with a 4-1 win behind goals from four different players.
Big Story: Two teams meeting for the second time in less than a week have been trending in opposite directions since they last met. Chicago stymied two streaking teams – the New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues – to retain its post near the top of the Western Conference. Meanwhile, consecutive losses to Winnipeg and Philadelphia pushed Phoenix to ninth and, for the moment, out of playoff contention.
Coyotes: Phoenix has been mercurial all season, so its recent slide shouldn't raise too many red flags. However, one cause for concern for 'Yotes fans is goalie Mike Smith (12-6-3), who until Saturday was Phoenix's best, most consistent performer. Against Philadelphia, Smith was still consistent, just in all the wrong areas. Smith conceded four goals on 17 shots in the first period before coach Dave Tippett pulled him in favor of backup Jason LaBarbera.
"It just wasn't his night," Tippett said. "The puck wasn't hitting him."
With three road games in four days, it's possible LaBarbera will get the nod in Chicago. Whoever fills the crease won't solve Phoenix's problems on the power play, where the Coyotes are just one for their last 35.
"We just got to bear with it," forward Mikkel Boedker said. "We can't get down on ourselves if we don't score. We've just got to keep trying and keep trying."
Blackhawks: As Smith struggled in Phoenix, Chicago bested another of the League's top goalies in St. Louis' Brian Elliott. The Hawks' major weapons all hit the scoresheet, as Marian Hossa scored twice and Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews added tallies in a 5-2 dismantling of the Blues under the Gateway Arch.
"I thought we played a real strong game," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "Right from the outset it was competitive. We had a good first period, excellent second, real good third. Across the board we played hard and our special teams were excellent. It was a good night for us. We got contributions from everybody, everybody fulfilled their roll and job expectations were met. We scored some timely goals but that shorthanded goal really took us off there."
Who's Hot: That Chicago top line. Toews – the League's Second Star for November – has 10 goals in 12 games, while Sharp has three goals in three games. Not to be outdone, Hossa has 10 goals and seven assists in his last 17 games against Phoenix.
Injury Report: Phoenix is healthy aside from Michal Rozsival (head/concussion) and Kurt Sauer (post-concussion syndrome), both of whom have missed the entire season.
Stat Pack: LaBarbera might actually be the safer option at the United Center. Even though Smith got the win last week, LaBarbera is 4-1-0 with a 2.14 goals against average in his last five starts against Chicago.
Puck Drop: After his team's win in Chicago last Tuesday, Tippett on his team’s 7-4-1 road record: "Well, it's probably because we play our 'road game' even at home. But that's the style of game we have to play, it's hard-checking and making sure that we're putting the work in every game. On the road, teams do tend to simplify a little bit, but we've hung around a lot of games and found a way to win a lot of games."