The Phoenix Coyotes will look to finish their five-game road trip over .500 when they wrap it up in Chicago, against the defending champion Blackhawks. After taking their first two games of the road trip, the Coyotes have lost their last two, by a combined score of 13-6. They gave up eight goals against the Tampa Bay Lightning, before giving up five more in Columbus against the Blue Jackets.
The scariest part of those two outings are the fact that they gave up six combined power play goals. They'll be meeting a Blackhawks squad that ranks second in the league with the man advantage.
Sunday's game marks the third of four contests between the two teams this season. The Blackhawks took the first meeting in Chicago, while Phoenix defended their home ice with a 3-2 shootout victory. In that win, the Coyotes squandered a two-goal lead and were vastly outplayed in the closing minutes before winning it in the shootout.
Ilya Bryzgalov will presumably be between the pipes for Phoenix. After starting 19 consecutive games, Bryz was given a night off to watch Jason LaBarbera surrender eight goals in Tampa. His start in Columbus didn't go much better than LaBarbera's, giving up all five goals in that game.
Despite the fact that the Blackhawks are in ninth in the Western Conference, they are playing much better hockey of late, winning three in a row and four of five. Much of that can be attributed to the play of their top line: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Patrick Sharp.
There's also the matter of their goalie, Corey Crawford, who hasn't garnered much attention to this point for the Calder Trophy, despite winning 21 games.
Things haven't changed for the Coyotes on the injury front. Ray Whitney is still out with a lower-body injury, and Adrian Aucoin still isn't expected to play with an upper-body injury. Phoenix will get Scottie Upshall back, after serving a two-game suspension for a hit on Oskars Bartulius in Philadelphia.
If the Coyotes can manage a win at the United Center, they'll move to within a point of the idle San Jose Sharks. If they lose, there's a chance that they could fall back into the mess that is the Western Conference.