COYOTES at BLACKHAWKS
(Phoenix leads best-of-seven series, 2-1)
TV: CNBC, TSN, RDS2, FS-A PLUS (HD), CSN-CH (HD)
Big Story: After yet another overtime thriller Tuesday night, Chicago and Phoenix will face each other in a pivotal Game 4 Thursday, and many eyes will be watching to see how the two teams react to one another. With the exclusion of Andrew Shaw's collision with Phoenix goalie Mike Smith behind the net -- an incident that resulted in Shaw being suspended for three games -- the series had been largely without incident or even an overriding sense of physical play. After Chicago's Marian Hossa left Game 3 following an open-ice hit by Phoenix's Raffi Torres, however, there is a chance the tension could be ratcheted up a level in Game 4.
Coyotes: Losing Game 2 in their own barn was a significant blow for the Coyotes, but they managed to correct the problem by stealing one Tuesday in the Madhouse on Madison. That was no easy feat given the Blackhawks were one of the best home teams in the League this season in a building that is notoriously unfriendly to visitors. The game-winner by Mikkel Boedker was even more impressive considering Chicago had played well throughout the overtime period, which means grabbing an unlikely victory on the road could be a major momentum swing -- and a major blow to Chicago's confidence.
The win may not have been all that surprising, however. Phoenix won both of its visits to the United Center during the regular season, meaning the Coyotes are an impressive 3-for-3 in the Windy City. Keeping that record intact could be more difficult Thursday, however, as the team will be without Torres, who has been suspended indefinitely pending a hearing with the Department of Player Safety on Friday. Losing Torres, who is a strong defensive checking forward, could be a significant hit.
Blackhawks: Chicago may have been used to overtime after its two late comebacks in Games 1 and 2 in Phoenix, but the game Tuesday night was of a different sort. This time it was the Blackhawks surrendering a third-period goal that forced extra time, as Ray Whitney's equalizer came just 32 seconds after Michael Frolik had given Chicago the lead. Unlike the first two games in which the Hawks had forced OT with goals in the final 20 seconds of regulation, there was no win or moral victory to be had after Boedker's game-winner. In fact, Chicago's understandably frustrated goaltender Corey Crawford called the goal "terrible" -- shouldering much of the blame for the disappointing loss.
Crawford will have a chance to redeem himself in Game 4, but evening the series will still be a challenge without Hossa. While Hossa had no goals or assists in the first three games, the winger was tied with Jonathan Toews for a team-leading plus-3 rating. Even without him scoring, the Hawks will miss his responsible play at both ends of the ice -- but for how long is uncertain. Chicago announced Wednesday that Hossa was out of the hospital and recuperating at his home, but while he is expected to make a full recovery there has been no timetable set.
Who's Hot: Patrick Kane hasn't lit the lamp yet this series, but he has dished assists left and right. He leads the Hawks in postseason scoring with four points. … Boedker may have potted the game-winner, but the biggest night for Phoenix came from Rostislav Klesla. The blueliner jumped into the team lead in playoff scoring with a goal and two assists in Game 3, giving him four points in the series.
Injury Report: In addition to the loss of Hossa, the Blackhawks will be without Steve Montador (concussion-like symptoms). … Lauri Korpikoski (upper-body injury) is questionable for the Coyotes.
Stat Pack: The three overtime games in this series have added up to a cumulative total of 33:20 of bonus hockey with mixed results for both teams. While none of the games has seen a second overtime period, the Coyotes and Blackhawks have played more than half of an extra game in added time.
Puck Drop: It was Bachman-Turner Overdrive that famously said they were working overtime in their hit song "Taking Care of Business." While BTO hasn't been performing on the ice during any games in this series, it might be appropriate. Whether Game 4 follows suit Thursday night is anyone's guess, but with teams this closely matched it would not at all be surprising and the ramifications will be enormous either way. A win for Chicago will square the series up, but if Phoenix can pull it out, the Coyotes will have a chance to clinch their first postseason series win since the franchise moved to Arizona on Saturday night.