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Welcome to the Desert: Blackhawks vs Coyotes Game Preview

March 20, 2010

Game Time: 8:00 PM CST
TV/Radio: CSN, NHLN / WGN (720-AM)
Know Thy Enemy: Hipchecks

Stat Pack:

Blackhawks (1st)
Coyotes (4th)
5-4-1 7-3-0
Record on the Road: 19-12-3 at Home: 25-10-2
PP% 18.9% (T-9th) 15.1% (30th)
PK 84.4% (5th) 83.9% (8th)

Well the Hawks are lucky that they don’t have to deal with this awful weather in Chicago today.  What a perfect time to visit the desert.  This one should feel like a home game for the Blackhawks too.  The Arena is sold out for tonight’s tilt.  Its no coincidence that a whole lot of Chicagoans are already in the area from the Cubs-Sox exhibition game yesterday.  Expect at least 50% of the fans to be rooting for the Hawks.

The Coyotes have faced a whole lot of adversity this season.  Going into the season, nobody knew which country the team would be playing in.  All the experts predicted them to finish at the bottom of the West.  But they’ve fought hard all season and right now they’re in position to have home ice in the first round of the playoffs.  The comparisons to the movie Major League are just too easy.  They’re made up of a rag tag group of underdogs, has-beens (see: Aucoin, Adrian), and never-was (see Vrbata, Radim).  This movie pretty much writes itself.

The Coyotes managed to play their way into 4th place so far this year, despite playing in front of an arena that has been half empty for a lot of the season.  They don’t score many goals.  They only have 2.58 goals per game, good for 25th in the NHL.  They win games with their defense.  The Coyotes are one of the few teams who give up less goals per game than the Hawks.  A lot of that has to do with Ilya Bryzgalov, who has won his last 6 starts.

The Hawks are coming off a strong performance against the Kings.  Niemi will get the start after a fairly strong showing in Hollywood.  Seabrook is still questionable.  He’ll be a game time decision.  He told reporters that his headaches have gone away, which is a great sign for someone with a concussion.  He may not be 100%, but it could have been much worse.  No word on Johnsson yet either.  Byfuglien will stay at defense tonight and probably for a little while into the future.  Coach Q loved his play in LA.  He could really be an upgrade over Hendry and Sopel, and moving back to D could allow for more defense from the back end.  It would also open up a forward spot for Kopecky and/or Fraser.

This is a game the Hawks would love to get 2 points from.  That would certainly help what started off as a disastrous road swing.

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