Blackhawks-Coyotes Preview

The Associated Press

The Chicago Blackhawks own the best record in the NHL, and an extended road trip hasn't slowed them down at all.

A meeting with one of the best home teams in the league just might.

The Blackhawks look to conclude this seven-game trip with a sixth straight win Saturday night against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Chicago (19-4-4) leads the league with 42 points, three more than San Jose, St. Louis and Anaheim. The Blackhawks are also the highest scoring team with 97 goals.

That impressive offense has been on display recently with Chicago scoring 18 goals during its five-game run since a 5-1 loss at Colorado on Nov. 19.

The Blackhawks worked overtime and then some to extend their streak Friday, beating Dallas 2-1 on Ben Smith's goal in the 11th round of the shootout.

"It was fun," said Smith, who scored on his first career shootout attempt. "A great opportunity. It was awesome. I just knew I was going to try and keep it simple, shoot the puck. I was fortunate that it went in."

Lately, pucks are going in fairly regularly for Patrick Sharp. He's scored half of his 10 goals over the last seven games after his tally midway through the third period Friday forced overtime.

The left wing has three goals and seven assists over his last seven regular-season meetings with the Coyotes, totaling five points in the past two visits to Glendale.

Chicago has won four straight games there, including a pair of overtime victories while being ousted in the opening round of the 2012 playoffs.

The Blackhawks also beat the Coyotes 5-4 in a shootout at home Nov. 14, with Sharp scoring in regulation before missing his attempt in the tiebreaker.

Phoenix, though, is 9-1-2 at home while averaging 3.9 goals. The Coyotes are looking to re-establish that dominance after falling 4-2 to Anaheim last Saturday.

They've since split two on the road, beating Minnesota 3-1 on Wednesday to snap a three-game overall skid.

"We lost our first home game last week and we want to get back on a winning streak at home," coach Dave Tippett told the team's official website. "It will be a very competitive game. We know a lot about their team and I think they know a lot about our team. It will be a fun game."

Tippett is also hoping to see more strong defensive play from the Coyotes, who were giving up an average of 3.5 goals before stifling the Wild.

"We know we have to get back to playing a really tight defending game," Tippett said. "Our offense has been very good, that hasn't been an issue. But we have to defend better and hopefully (Wednesday) was a step in that direction."

Radim Vrbata's 21 points are tied with Martin Hanzal for the team lead, and he has eight of them in six games. The right wing scored twice against Minnesota to snap a six-game goal drought, and he has four goals while assisting on three others in his past seven regular-season meetings with Chicago.

Hanzal has seven points in five games, but has been held without a point over his last two versus the Blackhawks.

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