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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, November 5th (All times eastern)

Chicago Blackhawks (8-4-1) at Phoenix Coyotes (9-6-0), 9 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Chicago Blackhawks will attempt to maintain their recent mastery of the Phoenix Coyotes when the two teams face off this evening at Jobing.com Arena.

Chicago has won six straight times against the Coyotes as well as eight of the last nine meetings in the series, and outscored Phoenix by a 20-4 margin in taking all four matchups between the clubs last season. The Blackhawks have also emerged victorious in each of their last three visits to Arizona.

The Blackhawks also enter tonight's clash having played well as of late, with wins in three of their four most recent outings. That surge has moved Chicago into first place in the Central Division, one point ahead of Columbus.

Chicago played all four of those contests without the services of captain Jonathan Toews, the team's leader with 34 goals last season, after the young centerman suffered a concussion when he took a hard hit from Vancouver's Willie Mitchell in a October 21 game. The 21-year-old was able to practice on Wednesday, however, and could return to the lineup as soon as tonight.

Toews would be rejoining a Blackhawks squad that's fresh off a 3-2 home triumph over Montreal this past Friday, with Patrick Sharp scoring the tie- breaking goal with just 4:10 remaining in the third period.

Kris Versteeg and Cam Barker each had a goal and an assist for Chicago, with Patrick Kane adding a pair of helpers to help back a 20-save effort out of goaltender Cristobal Huet.

Phoenix has cooled off some after a hot start and will be attempting to avoid its first three-game losing streak of the season. After winning seven times in a nine-game stretch to conclude October, the Coyotes have dropped back-to-back tests against Los Angeles and Colorado to begin this month.

The Avalanche dealt Phoenix a 4-1 setback in Denver last night, scoring three times in the third period to break open a close game.

Ed Jovanovski pulled the Coyotes within 2-1 with a power-play goal midway through the final stanza, but Colorado lit the lamp twice in the closing minute to prevail.

"This was a pretty lackluster effort for the better part of two periods," Jovanovski said. "We have to start with some life. We have to be ready to start games."

Ilya Bryzgalov finished with 25 saves for Phoenix, which played without forward Scottie Upshall due to a lower-body injury. The former first-round pick, who recorded 13 points in 19 games for the Coyotes after coming over in a trade with Philadelphia last season, is listed as day-to-day.

11/05 10:46:26 ET

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