With the absence of leading scorer Patrick Kane, the Chicago Blackhawks look to end their second longest road trip of the season on a high note against rival Phoenix Coyotes. Phoenix, who was a preseason playoff favorite, has regressed this season and is now on the outside looking in with regards to the Western Conference playoff race.
A large reason for this has not been injury, but rather a lack of defensive integrity. Despite ranking in the top 15 in both shots and goals per game, Phoenix also ranks in the bottom third in the league in goals and shots allowed. That, coupled with a 27th ranked penalty kill, should spell trouble for a Phoenix team that looks to remain well above .500.
This has created issues for the Coyotes in the past, as the team is 0-2 against the Blackhawks this season. Chicago has scored five goals in each of the team’s two meetings, and once again sits comfortably as the NHL leaders in goals per game. For the Blackhawks to continue their success, they will need a strong performance from their top line. Patrick Sharp has three assists in three February games, but has not put the puck in the back of the net in the past three contests.
On the second line, without Kane, Brandon Saad is likely to be promoted and should perform excellently. Over the past two games Saad has not registered a point, but still has five points within his last five games. With Saad not being selected for the U.S Olympic team, this will be his last professional game for a while, and a chance to make a massive statement that he can play at an elite, top six, level.
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