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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Wednesday, February 27th (All times eastern)

Phoenix Coyotes (32-26-5) at Chicago Blackhawks (29-27-6), 8:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - A pair of teams with bright futures will conclude their season series tonight, as the Phoenix Coyotes visit the Chicago Blackhawks and the United Center.

Chicago has won two of three versus Phoenix this year, though the Coyotes have posted a victory in six of their last nine versus the Blackhawks. Phoenix has also won three of its last four in the Windy City.

Of the two clubs, the Coyotes appear to be closer to making the postseason first. Phoenix enters play tonight 10th in the Western Conference but just three points back of the seventh and eighth spots of the conference. Chicago, meanwhile, is eight points back of a playoff spot.

Neither team has made the playoffs in each of the last four seasons.

While veterans Shane Doan and Radim Vrbata have been outstanding for the Coyotes this year, the biggest surprise has been rookie Peter Mueller, who is tops among freshman skaters with 19 goals.

Also, the early-season pickup of netminder Ilya Bryzgalov (21 wins, 2.40 goals-against average) has given Phoenix stability between the pipes. Bryzgalov notched his second shutout of the season with Sunday's 2-0 blanking of St. Louis, making 35 saves in the win.

Zbynek Michalek and Joel Perrault both scored for Phoenix, while Keith Ballard and Steve Reinprecht each added an assist in the victory, the Coyotes' fourth in six games.

Phoenix, which is 18-12-2, also stayed quite at the trade deadline, as it made only one move, getting forward Marcel Hossa and goaltender Al Montoya from the Rangers for netminder David LeNeveu and forwards Fredrik Sjostrom and Josh Gratton.

Chicago, meanwhile, has won five of its last seven but is coming off the heels of Sunday's 6-3 loss in Anaheim. Patrick Sharp scored twice for a second straight game to give him 31 goals on the season.

Brent Seabrook also scored for the Blackhawks, who had won five of six coming into the contest. Sharp added an assist and rookie Jonathan Toews posted three helpers to give him a goal and four assists in his last two tests. Toews is right behind Muller with 18 goals, and is teaming with rookie Patrick Kane (14 goals, 38 assists) to give the Blackhawks a young 1-2 punch.

Patrick Lalime and Corey Crawford split duties in net on Sunday, with Lalime giving up five goals on 25 shots and Crawford allowing one goal on three shots.

Lalime should remain in net with Nikolai Khabibulin doubtful due to back spasms. He has allowed 14 goals over this last three games.

Chicago made a pair of moves yesterday, acquiring forward Andrew Ladd from Carolina for forward Tuomo Ruutu. Also, the Blackhawks shipped forward Martin Lapointe to Ottawa for a sixth-round pick in the 2008 draft.

Chicago is 15-13-1 this year at home, where it has won three of its last four.

02/27 10:46:56 ET

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