The Chicago Blackhawks have fallen in two straight games and are on a 1-8-2 slide. The Arizona Coyotes are having a worse go: a seven-game losing streak in which they have surrendered at least five goals in each defeat and been outscored 43-10.
Somebody will jump back into the win column when the Coyotes (22-49-5, 49 points) host the Blackhawks (25-40-11, 61 points) Wednesday in Glendale, Ariz.
It’s a matchup of the two worst teams in the Western Conference’s Central Division.
“It’s tough for sure, you’re always trying to find a solution,” Arizona coach Andre Tourigny said of his team’s troubles. “The NHL is not an easy league. … But we’ll keep pushing.”
The Coyotes are last in the league standings and have just two victories in their last 16 games. In their favor is that Arizona has won two of the three previous meetings with Chicago this season.
Both teams can find some positives as they head to the end of the season.
For the Coyotes, one of those is newcomer Nathan Smith, the forward acquired from the Winnipeg Jets at the trade deadline who signed with the team after his season at Minnesota State ended. Smith collected his first NHL point with an assist in his team’s 5-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday, his fourth pro game.
“It’s definitely been a learning curve for me, but every game I’ve just tried to get a little bit better and focus in on the details, get better defensively and just high positioning and all of that in the defensive zone,” Smith said. “It feels good to get the first point. Unfortunately, we didn’t win, but I’m just trying to make small improvements every day.”
The Blackhawks are beginning a three-game road trip after suffering a 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames on Monday. Like the Coyotes, they are trying to keep spirits high and find positives as the losses mount.
“We played all right at times. I think all year we’ve kind of been doing that,” said Chicago forward Tyler Johnson, who missed nearly half the season due to neck surgery and scored his first goal since late October. “We make the game a little too difficult, in my opinion, sometimes, and good teams make you pay for that. I don’t necessarily think it’s effort or anything like that, but we change the way we play a little bit and good teams don’t do that.”
Chicago is also giving prospects some extended looks, among them defenseman Alec Regula, who scored his first NHL goal on Monday. Regula, who has collected 25 points in 40 American Hockey League games this season, needed to improve his defensive game after being a point-per-game player in juniors.
“Throughout the year, I’ve had parts of my game that feel good and others that don’t,” he said. “It’s kind of been up and down a little bit… Right now, I feel like I’m playing my best hockey and I feel really good about it. I think I’m defending well, doing good on the penalty kill and also contributing offensively and on the power play.”
–Field Level Media