Blackhawks look to snap skid vs. hapless Coyotes

NHL

The signs of the Chicago Blackhawks ending their losing skid are right there. The question remains when they will return to the win column.

Heading into Thursday’s road clash with the struggling Arizona Coyotes, the Blackhawks have dropped five straight games, but three have been in overtime, including Tuesday’s 4-3 defeat at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche.

The Blackhawks, staked to an early third-period lead earned by a pair of power-play goals 40 seconds apart by Alex DeBrincat, couldn’t hold the advantage.

“We went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the league there,” defenseman Calvin de Haan said. “I think there’s a lot of positives we can build off of. … At the end of the day it sucks to lose, but I think we lost the right way. We played a really good game.”

Chicago does have another positive situation. After struggling to gain his footing in the first few months of the campaign after missing all of last season, captain Jonathan Toews has scored all four of his goals in the last eight games.

“I feel like I’m improving a little bit day by day and just trying to stay patient,” Toews said. “At this time of the year, too, when you play three, four games in a week or whatever it is, you’re never going to feel perfect. Not looking for that, just trying to find more consistency.”

Newly acquired forward Sam Lafferty, who came to Chicago in Wednesday’s trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Alex Nylander, is expected to join the team in time for the game. Lafferty has netted two assists in 10 games.

The Coyotes are also looking to gain positive traction. Arizona sits last in the NHL, and after losing 3-1 at home to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, are mired in a 1-7-1 skid.

Times are so tough that a close loss — an empty-net goal in the final minute rounded out the scoring — is seen as a step forward.

“It’s dangerous to put too much judgment in one game, but the first two periods were good. We had great scoring chances,” coach Andre Tourigny said. “I think in the third period we were too passive. We needed to initiate the play, be the aggressor and try to generate some mistakes, and some plays were too passive where we were waiting for offense to happen by itself. So not as good in the third, but we finished the game strong and had a push trying to tie the game.”

That passive play through much of the third period resulted in Arizona surrendering 48 shots on goal, 20 of them in the final frame.

That said, working against the Coyotes are a couple of aspects. For starters, they had played just one game since Dec. 17 — having had five games postponed — and have a slew of players working their way back from COVID battles while a few key skaters are out due to injury. Forwards Travis Boyd, Liam O’Brien and Christian Fischer, and defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin returned to action against the Jets.

“We’ve faced adversity all year with guys being out to COVID, so I thought those guys did a heck of a job,” forward Clayton Keller said. “Some of those guys only skated once or twice maybe before and then you’re right back in the game action. So, I thought those guys did a good job and that’s going to happen during a year like this, so I think everyone’s got to be ready.”

–Field Level Media

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