LIVE: Blackhawks trail in Phoenix, 2-1 after 2nd


LIVE: Blackhawks trail in Phoenix, 2-1 after 2nd

Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011
11:00 a.m.

Associated Press

By tightening up their defense, the Phoenix Coyotes have quickly put a disappointing stretch behind them.

The Coyotes look to win their fourth in a row Saturday night when they host the banged-up Chicago Blackhawks, who hope to bounce back from a discouraging loss heading into the finale of a six-game road trip.

After recording consecutive shutouts for the first time in his career against Minnesota last Saturday and Colorado on Monday, Ilya Bryzgalov made 16 saves for Phoenix (28-19-9) in Wednesday's 3-2 overtime win in Dallas. Radim Vrbata scored a power-play goal 1:13 into the extra period for the Coyotes, who are one-point ahead of eighth-place Calgary in the Western Conference.

"We have to play the way we've played the last three games," said Vrbata, who has three goals in his last two.

That means continuing to limit the number of shots their goaltender has to face.

Phoenix has allowed an average of 23.0 shots in winning its last three after yielding an average of 34.3 in its previous six. The Coyotes had lost six of eight prior to this winning streak, allowing at least four goals in each of those defeats.

"Our identity is to play a tight game, like you've seen the last three," forward Lee Stempniak said. "The big thing for us is to not have to go out and score five or six goals to get a win, if we can limit them to two goals, we have a way better chance to get a win."

The Coyotes are 20-0-3 when allowing two goals or fewer.

The Blackhawks (28-22-5) scored twice just over four minutes into Friday's game against Dallas, and took a 3-0 lead less than 13 minutes in, but ended up losing 4-3 in a shootout. It was the fifth loss in seven games for Chicago, which has been outscored 9-2 in the third period of those defeats.

"Every time we lose, it's the same thing that happens and we don't change it," said captain Jonathan Toews, who has two goals and 10 assists during a season-high six-game point streak. "We had a good first period, and we had a good effort, we were doing the right things and somehow it goes away in the second. I don't understand what's going on and the writing's on the wall. We get satisfied and we give teams a chance to come back ..."

The Blackhawks had a tough time Friday overcoming the loss of right wing Fernando Pisani, center Ryan Johnson and left wing Viktor Stalberg, as all three sustained upper-body injuries and didn't return. Coach Joel Quenneville said the three are day-to-day and will be evaluated on Saturday.

The Blackhawks are 11th in the West and three points behind the Flames, but Quenneville is trying to remain optimistic.

"We have a chance to be .500 on this trip, so we look at it in a positive way, and go from there," he said.

Quenneville is expected to go with Corey Crawford in net after backup Marty Turco played in his return to Dallas. Crawford, who has never faced Phoenix, is 1-3-0 with a 2.53 goals-against average in his last four starts after going 4-0-1 with a 0.97 GAA and two shutouts in his previous five.

This will be the first meeting between these teams since the Coyotes' 2-1 win in Chicago on Nov. 10. Phoenix is 4-1-0 against the Blackhawks since the start of last season, after being outscored 23-5 while losing the previous six meetings.

New Orleans has struggled in back-to-back scenarios, going 5-7 when playing for the second consecutive night.

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Drake Caggiula doesn't agree with Game 2 suspension, but 'I respect the decision'

Drake Caggiula doesn't agree with Game 2 suspension, but 'I respect the decision'

As a player who's had a history of head injuries, Blackhawks forward Drake Caggiula is all for the league punishing illegal checks to the head. Those kinds of hits have no place in the game.

It's why Caggiula was suspended for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers after delivering a "high, forceful hit on Oilers forward Tyler Ennis [in Game 1] that picked the head, making it the main point of contact on a hit where such head contact was avoidable," according to the NHL Department of Player Safety.

While he respects the ruling, Caggiula doesn't necessarily agree with it.

"I think what you can ask for is consistency around the league and make sure that it's the same for everybody," Caggiula said. "It was a one-game suspension, I don't necessarily agree with it, but I respect the decision and I totally respect the fact we want to protect players' heads and safety."

The incident occurred at the 7:42 mark of the second period on Saturday. Caggiula's right shoulder clearly made contact with Ennis' head, but it was a tricky play to analyze because Ennis' head positioning changed on the follow-through of his clearing attempt.

At no point during Wednesday's pregame video conference call did Caggiula try to defend his hit on Ennis. He simply wanted clarity from the Department of Player Safety on how that specific hit was different from other non-suspendable ones and got his answer.

Now he's ready to move on.

"The consistency thing is what we're all looking for as players," Caggiula said. "We just want to know what the standard is. I know what the standard is now, and I have no issue with it."

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Can Blackhawks' Alex DeBrincat break through in Game 3 against the Oilers?

Can Blackhawks' Alex DeBrincat break through in Game 3 against the Oilers?

In the Stanley Cup Qualifiers against the Oilers, DeBrincat was held off the scoresheet in Game 1's 6-4 win, but picked up two assists in Game 2's 3-6 loss.

The 22-year-old winger has been on the Hawks' third line for the series against the Oilers with rookie center Kirby Dach. The third combo was without forward Drake Caggiula on Monday, who was suspended for Game 2 after an illegal check to the head of Edmonton forward Tyler Ennis in Game 1.

John Quenneville slotted in for Caggiula in the beginning of Game 2, but Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton had Patrick Kane double shift on the third line for a lot of the game, leaving Quenneville with just 6:04 of ice time for the contest.

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DeBrincat finished Game 2 one of four Hawks to log a positive +/- rating at +3. His center, Dach, was also a +3. 

"Playoffs (are) a little different obviously," DeBrincat told the media Tuesday. "I think I’m just trying to go out there, create some havoc, get some offensive (zone) time, you know, doing anything I can to help the team win. I think that’s the goal here. It doesn’t really matter if you get points in a game if you lose. We’re just trying to go out there each night and win."

DeBrincat acknowledged having Kane double shift on the third line didn't exactly hurt his game. 

"I think anytime you’re playing with a guy of that caliber in Kaner, I think you just got to get open and he can find you or vice versa. I think it’s pretty easy to play with a guy like that. That was pretty easy for us yesterday."

On Monday, Edmonton cooled off the Hawks' top line by countering them with McDavid's line, shutting down rookie forward Dominik Kubalik, who had five points (two power-play goals, three assists) and Jonathan Toews, who had three points (one power-play goal, one 5-on-5 goal, one assist) in Game 1.

If the matchups remain the same after Caggiula is potentially added back to the third line for Game 3, adding some energy, DeBrincat riding his offensive momentum from Game 2 and finding the back of the net himself could be a difference-maker for the Hawks in Game 3 Wednesday.

"I’ve liked him both games," Colliton said Tuesday. "I thought that line – Kirby, DeBrincat and later, Kaner – they were good. I thought that’s part of why (we) put Kane in with those two because it looked like the young guys were going. (DeBrincat's) habits and his skating and work ethic away from the puck, they’ve been really good. We know he can score. He had a couple good chances, particularly in Game 1. I thought he was around the net and causing some havoc there last night and it resulted in some goals. Just got to have good habits and (be) doing the right things. The puck drops on (his) tape and we believe he’ll put it in."