The Chicago Blackhawks played well without Martin Havlat. They might be even better with one of their top scorers back on the ice.
Coming off a strong outing in his first game back from injury, Havlat tries to help the Blackhawks win their fifth straight home game Friday night as they meet the Phoenix Coyotes.
Havlat scored twice in Chicago's 5-1 home win over Tampa Bay on Wednesday in his first action since injuring his right shoulder in a season-opening 1-0 loss at Minnesota on Oct. 4. He showed little rust from missing 22 games, scoring 43 seconds into the contest.
"I just wanted to be helpful," Havlat said. "I know at the beginning, I'm not going to feel great. I need to get my legs back. At the end I was getting tired."
The Blackhawks went 12-8-2 without their leading scorer from 2006-07, but his presence should add more to a club that already is among the highest-scoring teams in the Western Conference with 71 goals. Chicago was tied for second-to-last in the league last season with 201 goals en route to a last-place finish in the Central Division.
Chicago has put together a four-game home winning streak for the third consecutive season, but now looks to win five straight at the United Center for the first time since a seven-game run from Dec. 27, 2001-Jan. 20, 2002.
Havlat missed 26 games with various injuries last season, his first with Chicago, but still led the team with 25 goals and 32 assists. He rejoins Chicago's talented lineup that includes rookies Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, plus veterans Robert Lang and Patrick Sharp.
"We were pumped to have him back in the lineup," said Toews, who also scored Wednesday. "We didn't expect him to explode like that. But he played great, didn't miss a beat."
Sharp added his team-leading 12th goal and an assist against the Lightning. He has scored in four consecutive games, totaling six goals and two assists.
Wednesday marked the sixth time Blackhawks have scored five or more goals in a game. They did it just seven times last season.
Nikolai Khabibulin made 21 saves Wednesday in his first game against the Lightning since leading them to the 2004 Stanley Cup title, and is expected to face another of his former teams Friday.
Khabibulin is 6-2-1 with a 1.87 goals-against average against the Coyotes, the franchise which drafted him in 1992 when it was known as the Winnipeg Jets.
Khabibulin is 4-0-2 with a .928 save percentage in his last six starts.
As Chicago looks to continue its home winning streak, the Coyotes will try for their fourth straight win at the United Center. Phoenix went 3-1-0 versus Chicago last season, but fell 7-5 to the Blackhawks at home on March 10 in the teams' most recent meeting.
The Coyotes (11-11-0) had their season-high, four-game winning streak snapped with a 3-1 loss at Minnesota on Wednesday. It was the first loss in five starts for goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov since he was released by Anaheim and claimed off waivers by Phoenix on Nov. 17.
"Sometimes we can lose, too. We lost because of too many mistakes at the offensive blue line and the neutral zone," said Bryzgalov, who has a 1.58 GAA with the Coyotes and is 4-0-1 with a 1.38 GAA against the Blackhawks.
Radim Vrbata scored his team-leading ninth goal and fourth in his last three contests Wednesday. He'll look to extend his goal-scoring streak to four games Friday in his first game against his former team.
Vrbata posted a career-high 41 points in his only season with the Blackhawks in 2006-07.