The Blackhawks will be involved in a showdown for first place in the Western Conference standings Tuesday night at the United Center, but it won’t be against the San Jose Sharks.
Who would have thought before the season began that the Phoenix Coyotes could be coming to Chicago in late March tied with the Hawks for first in the West with 97 points?
The Coyotes won their ninth straight game Sunday night, 3-2 over Dallas in another shootout. Phoenix is 12-4 in shootouts, including Saturday’s 5-4 win over the Hawks, and has won eight shootouts in a row, five of them coming in this nine-game winning streak.
The Coyotes lead the Pacific Division by 1 point over the slumping Sharks, whose 5-1 loss at Edmonton on Sunday was their fifth in a row.
“What can you say about this group that hasn’t already been said?” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said following Sunday’s win.
The Coyotes have shrugged off a brutal schedule of late. They won a shootout in Florida on Thursday, flew back to Arizona for Saturday’s shootout win over the Hawks, then took off right after that game for Dallas, landing at 3 a.m. in a snowstorm.
The Hawks need to get their act together starting Tuesday or the Coyotes could leave them behind for good.
The Hawks’ commitment to playing good team defense has been pitiful for weeks and coach Joel Quenneville let them have it after Saturday’s loss in the desert. We’ll see what the response is from here.