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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Monday, December 5th (All times Eastern)

Phoenix Coyotes (13-9-3) at Chicago Blackhawks (16-8-3), 8 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Playing from behind is tough to do for any team in the NHL, but it has been particularly hard for the Phoenix Coyotes.

Trying to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season, the Coyotes look to slow down the high-powered Chicago Blackhawks this evening at the United Center.

Phoenix was drilled for four first-period goals in Saturday's 4-2 setback to visiting Philadelphia and fell to 2-8-0 this season when allowing the game's first goal. Head coach Dave Tippett said afterwards it is every team's approach not to play from behind but that his club just made too many errors.

"If you're making the mistakes to get behind early, you're not going to win many hockey games," Tippett said. "We had a couple of bad bounces, but then we made some bad mistakes that ended up in our net."

Ray Whitney and Mikkel Boedker both scored goals against former teammate Ilya Bryzgalov, who returned as a member of Philadelphia to Phoenix for the first time since losing Game 4 of the Western Conference quarterfinals against the Detroit Red Wings as the Coyotes' No. 1 netminder.

Mike Smith was brought in to replace Bryzgalov, but was pulled on Saturday after allowing four goals on 17 shots. Jason LaBarbera, who only made two starts in November, finished the game by stopping all 13 shots he faced.

"You play one game in a month and get thrown out there against a team like Philly when they're flying like that, it's not always easy," said LaBarbera. "But it's part of the job and you find a way to do it."

Phoenix begins a three-game road test tonight and will try to avoid losing three straight games in regulation for the first time since Feb. 12-March 2, 2010, a span that was broken up by the Olympic break.

The Coyotes can ill-afford to fall behind early versus the Blackhawks, who are 9-0-1 when scoring first. That wasn't the case on Saturday as they trailed the Blues by margins of 1-0 and 2-1 before ripping off four straight goals en route to a 5-2 victory.

Marian Hossa scored a power-play goal and also had one shorthanded as Chicago went 2-for-3 on the man advantage and killed off all four of St. Louis' chances on the power play.

"We are glad the [penalty kill] improved tonight. We have to build on this one," said Hossa, who has 399 career goals. "We got the short-handed goal and a couple of power plays. The special teams were the difference tonight."

Patrick Sharp scored for a third straight game and both he and Jonathan Toews ended with a goal and an assist for the Blackhawks, who have won four of their last five. Patrick Kane had two assists and is tied for the NHL lead with 21.

Ray Emery stopped 23 shots in his first start since Nov. 19, spelling Chicago's No. 1 netminder Corey Crawford for a night.

The Blackhawks now return home where they are 8-2-2 this season and will play nine of their next 12. However, they did suffer a 4-1 setback as the host to the Coyotes last Tuesday, giving Phoenix a 6-3-1 record in this series over the past 10 games.

Chicago, which did best Phoenix in the desert on Oct. 18, has gotten goals from six different players this year versus the Coyotes, led by Sharp's marker and two assists.

Crawford has split his two starts versus Phoenix this year getting pulled early in last week's setback.

Smith made 24 saves in that win, coming within 43 seconds of a shutout. Whitney has a pair of goals and four points versus Chicago this year and posted the 350th goal of his career in Saturday's loss to the Flyers.

12/05 10:33:54 ET

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