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Coyotes-Blackhawks Preview

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GAME: Phoenix Coyotes (30-33-4) at Chicago Blackhawks (21-36-9).

TIME: Sunday, 3 p.m. EST.

With the Chicago Blackhawks hosting the Phoenix Coyotes, there are no playoff implications to consider. The matchup features two teams that have both won just three times in their last 12 games.

There is something noteworthy, though, about the Coyotes' three wins. While they have lost to Chicago and lowly Columbus in its 3-8-1 stretch, Phoenix has soundly defeated Dallas and Detroit - the top teams in the Western Conference - as well as playoff contender Los Angeles since the Olympic break.

They beat the Stars 6-2 at home March 2 before winning road contests in Detroit, 5-2 on March 8, and Los Angeles, 6-2 on Tuesday.

In the third game of a five-game road trip Thursday, the Coyotes failed to get a second straight win when they lost 2-0 to the Nashville Predators. Phoenix hasn't won back-to-back games since Jan. 26-28.

The Coyotes outshot the Predators 24-23, but couldn't put a puck past Nashville goalie Tomas Vokoun and were shut out for just the third time all season.

Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky, though, did not sound unhappy with his team's performance.

"Losing is tough," Gretzky said. "As I said to our players after the game, no one likes to lose. But playing with the effort we played with in this game goes a long way. We made one mistake late in the first period and we got beat on a power play in the second period, but other than that I thought we played strong."

The Coyotes' road trip concludes in Columbus on Tuesday.

The Blackhawks have won just once in their last five games, and have gone 3-7-2 since Feb. 8. They haven't won two in a row since Dec. 7-11.

Chicago had a chance for two straight victories Friday after defeating Columbus 3-2 on Wednesday night, but the Blackhawks lost 2-1 to Anaheim. Andy McDonald beat Chicago goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin for both Anaheim goals, including the game-winner at 1:57 of the third period.

Blackhawks center Patrick Sharp nearly tied the game in the final seconds, but Mighty Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere got a piece of his point-blank shot and it deflected off a post.

"The effort for the most part was there, but it was a funny game," Chicago coach Trent Yawney said. "(Sharp) hit the crossbar. That epitomizes our season. We've lost 20 games by one goal."

After Sunday's matchup, the Blackhawks travel to Phoenix to play the Coyotes on Thursday. They play at Dallas on Friday before returning home.

STANDINGS: Coyotes - 64 points, 5th place, 29 PB, Pacific Division. Blackhawks - 51 points, 4th place (tied), 46 PB, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Coyotes - Shane Doan, 23 goals and 114 PIM; Ladislav Nagy, 41 assists and 56 points. Blackhawks - Mark Bell, 21 goals; Kyle Calder, 28 assists and 44 points; Matthew Barnaby, 159 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Coyotes - Power play: 18.1 percent (81 for 447), 13th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.5 percent (347 for 426), 20th. Blackhawks - Power play: 12.3 percent (42 for 341), 30th. Penalty killing: 84 percent (389 for 463), 10th.

GOALTENDERS: Coyotes - Curtis Joseph (25-20-2, 2 SO, 3.02 GAA); Philippe Sauve (3-5-0, 3.36). Blackhawks - Khabibulin (13-21-3, 3.38); Craig Anderson (5-10-3, 1, 3.38).

SEASON SERIES: Blackhawks, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 7; Blackhawks, 3-1. At Glendale, Ariz., Radim Vrbata and Martin Lapointe scored second-period goals to overcome a 1-0 Phoenix lead and put Chicago up for good. Geoff Sanderson scored the Coyotes' lone goal.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Coyotes - 14-17-1 on the road; Blackhawks - 12-17-4 at home.

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