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Game #34 Preview: Arizona vs. Chicago

Darcy Kuemper gets the call as the teams meet for the second time in five days

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Game Preview

GAME #34: ARIZONA (18-11-4) vs. CHICAGO (12-13-6)

7:00 PM MST - Gila River Arena | Glendale, AZ

TV: Fox Sports Arizona (Matt McConnell, Tyson Nash, Todd Walsh, Jody Jackson)

Radio: Fox Sports 910 AM Phoenix (Bob Heethuis, Paul Bissonnette)

Referees: Tim Peel #20, Kendrick Nicholson #30

Linesmen: Mark Shewchyk #92, Brian Mach #78

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ARIZONA VS. CHICAGO

The Coyotes continue their three-game home stand tonight as they host the Chicago Blackhawks at Gila River Arena, marking the second of the teams' three scheduled meetings this season.

Chicago will return to Gila River Arena on February 1 for the season series finale.

These teams met just five days ago at Chicago's United Center - a 4-3 shootout win for the Coyotes on Sunday. Both clubs have played one game since, each suffering losses on Tuesday night.

The Coyotes are coming off of a 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames and the Blackhawks are coming off of a 5-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

"Both teams know what they have to do better, there's a little more focus from both teams," head coach Rick Tocchet said of playing the same team in such a short time-frame. "Hopefully the team that won doesn't get too cocky or too loose, and that's us, we've got to make sure we stay tight. And for them, it's a revenge game for them, we have to understand that they're coming into this building ready to play."

Darcy Kuemper will make his 22nd start of the season tonight, Tocchet confirmed Thursday morning. No other lineup changes are expected to be made. Robin Lehner is projected to start for the Blackhawks, setting the table for the same goaltending match-up seen Sunday at United Center.

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THREE THINGS

HOME IDENTITY: The Coyotes will be looking to rebound on home ice tonight, where they're 7-7-1 this season. They've lost four of their last five games (1-3-1) at Gila River Arena and have earned just 15 of their 40 standings points at home. "We start slow for whatever reason [at home], we've got to figure it out and get ahead of it here," Jakob Chychrun said following Tuesday's loss. "There's no excuses to starting slow, it's preparation and coming ready to play, we've got to be better." Arizona plays seven of its next 11 games on home ice.

PACKED PACIFIC: Coming into tonight, only three points separate the top four teams in the Pacific Division. The Coyotes, with 40 points, enter the evening with a share of first place with the Edmonton Oilers, the Calgary Flames (38) are close behind in third and the Vegas Golden Knights (37) in fourth. The Oilers visit the Minnesota Wild tonight, the Flames host the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Golden Knights visit the St. Louis Blues.

GOOD BEHAVIOR: Staying out of the penalty box has been one of the Coyotes' strengths this season, keeping their penalty kill time to a minimum. Arizona enters the night as the NHL's least-penalized team, averaging a league-low 6.5 PIMs per game. The Coyotes are one of only seven teams to be without a misconduct this season, and one of only four teams to have two or fewer major penalties.

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LAST TIME AROUND

NOVEMBER 8, 2019 - ARIZONA (4) at CHICAGO (3) F/SO

The Coyotes twice trailed by two goals but rallied to beat the Blackhawks in the teams' first meeting of the season on Sunday at Chicago's United Center, winning 4-3 in a game that extended to a shootout.

Christian Fischer cut into the Blackhawks' three-goal first period while Conor Garland and Carl Soderberg added tallies of their own in the second period to tie the game, 3-3.

Nick Schmaltz and Garland scored their league-leading fourth shootout goals of the season en route to the Coyotes winning their league-leading fifth shootout game of the year.

Darcy Kuemper stopped 26 of the 29 shots he faced along with two of Chicago's three shootout attempts in the win.

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NUMBER TO KNOW

TEN (10)

The Coyotes have snuck into the Top 10 in power play percentage, ranked 10th in the NHL with a 21.1% conversion rate (21-for-99).

Arizona has netted a power play goal in seven of its previous 10 games, scoring a total of nine over that span, including two against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night. The Coyotes are 13-1-1 when scoring on the man advantage this season.

Phil Kessel (6G, 5A) and Clayton Keller (1G, 10A) lead the team in power play points with 11.

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QUICK HITS

  • Darcy Kuemper enters the night with 13 wins, one shy of matching the second-highest mark of his NHL career (14 in 2014-15 - MIN).
  • Patrick Kane leads the Blackhawks in goals (14), assists (22), and points (36).
  • Alex Goligoski has 17 points (2G, 15A) in 34 career games against the Blackhawks.
  • Jonathan Toews ranks fourth in the NHL with 342 faceoff wins.
  • Oliver Ekman-Larsson will play in his 691st NHL game tonight, tying him with Doug Smith for fifth in franchise games played.
  • Conor Garland leads the Coyotes in goals (12), Nick Schmaltz leads the team in assists (17).
  • Arizona owns a 60-67-15-6 all-time record against Chicago.

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Lead Photo Credit: Christian Petersen - Getty Images // Footer Photo Credit: Kevin Anggara - Arizona Coyotes // GIF Highlight Footage: Fox Sports Arizona

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