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Blackhawks-Coyotes Preview

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GAME: Chicago Blackhawks (21-37-9) at Phoenix Coyotes (32-33-4).

TIME: Thursday, 9 p.m. EST.

The Phoenix Coyotes have a very slim chance to get to the playoffs and likely need goaltender Curtis Joseph to continue his strong play to have any shot.

Coming off a solid end to a five-game road trip, Joseph and the Coyotes host one of the few teams below them in the Western Conference standings as they face the Chicago Blackhawks.

Joseph made 31 saves and Phoenix scored five unanswered goals to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 on Tuesday, finishing with a 3-2 record on the trip.

Joseph started the last four games, allowing two goals in each while winning three of four.

"He's been outstanding for us," Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. "He's a tremendous professional and again tonight he was outstanding."

The 16-year veteran is a big reason the Coyotes are holding on to faint postseason hopes. They are 12th in the West, 11 points behind the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings for the eighth and final playoff spot.

A victory in this contest would be the 424th of Joseph's career and move him past Tony Esposito for sole possession of sixth place on the league's all-time wins list. Joseph has more wins than any other goalie to not win the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goaltender.

In 27 wins this season, Joseph has a 1.94 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage. He's appeared in 26 of Phoenix's losses, posting a 4.23 GAA with an .855 save percentage.

Joseph has a chance to help the Coyotes match their longest winning streak of the season at three games, accomplished from Dec. 3-11.

He has split two starts this season against Chicago, which is tied with St. Louis at the bottom of the West with 51 points. Joseph beat the Blackhawks on Sunday, making 34 saves in a 3-2 victory.

It was the fifth loss in six games for Chicago, which will miss the playoffs for the seventh time in eight years. The Blackhawks suffered their second consecutive one-goal loss and 21st of the season.

"The real wearing aspect of that is you're losing," said Curtis Brown, who scored for Chicago. "It doesn't matter if you're losing by one or more goals. We fought and we didn't give up."

Chicago has the lowest-rated power-play unit in the league and has gone 0-for-26 with the man advantage in the last seven games.

STANDINGS: Blackhawks - 51 points, 4th place (tied), 49 PB, Central Division. Coyotes - 68 points, 5th place, 27 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blackhawks - Mark Bell, 21 goals; Kyle Calder, 29 assists and 45 points; Matthew Barnaby, 159 PIM. Coyotes - Shane Doan, 25 goals and 116 PIM; Ladislav Nagy, 41 assists and 56 points; Doan, 116 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Blackhawks - Power play: 12.1 percent (42 for 346), 30th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.0 percent (394 for 469), 9th. Coyotes - Power play: 18.1 percent (83 for 458), 13th. Penalty killing: 81.6 percent (355 for 435), 20th.

GOALTENDERS: Blackhawks - Nikolai Khabibulin (13-22-3, 0 SO, 3.37 GAA); Craig Anderson (5-10-3, 1, 3.38). Coyotes - Joseph (27-20-2, 2, 2.98); Philippe Sauve (3-5-0, 0, 3.36).

SEASON SERIES: Blackhawks, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: March 19; Coyotes, 3-2. At Chicago, Doan scored the game-winner and Steve Reinprecht had two assists for Phoenix.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blackhawks - 9-19-5 on the road; Coyotes - 16-16-3 at home.

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