Posted April 20, 2013 on AP on Fox
Already headed to the playoffs with the best record in the Western Conference, the Chicago Blackhawks are looking to continue producing on the power play while closing in on the Presidents' Trophy. The Blackhawks go for an eight-game winning streak Saturday night when they attempt to sweep the season series from the Phoenix Coyotes, whose playoff chances are dimming. Chicago (34-5-4) has cruised to the best record in the West, and holds a six-point lead on Pittsburgh for the Presidents' Trophy with five games left in the regular season. The Penguins visit Boston earlier Saturday, and hold the tiebreaker in the race for the best regular-season record. The Blackhawks last won the Presidents' Trophy in 1990-91, and they appear to be on their way to getting another. They've reeled off seven wins in a row, their third winning streak of at least six games this season. Despite Chicago's staggering success, the power play has been an issue, ranking 20th in the league with a 16.5 percent success rate while surrendering four short-handed goals. The unit came up big Friday, going 2 for 3 after Marian Hossa scored on the man advantage in overtime of a 5-4 win over Nashville. The power play had been 0 for 20 over the previous nine games since scoring in a 2-1 loss to Anaheim on March 29. "It made a difference for us (Friday)," said captain Jonathan Toews, who had two assists. "We know that in the near future here it's going to matter a lot, so we need to confident units to go out there and make plays." Hossa seems to be gaining confidence overall, scoring four goals with two assists in five games. He's scored twice and set up another tally in two meetings with the Coyotes (18-17-8), helping Chicago win both on the road - including a 6-2 victory Feb. 7. Patrick Kane had three points in that matchup, giving him five in the season series. He had one goal and one assist Friday, giving him a team-leading 49 points. Brandon Saad hadn't managed a point versus Phoenix this season, but a home meeting could change that. The left wing, a contender for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie, has scored seven of his 10 goals at home, and he's managed 13 points over the past 13 games there. The Blackhawks are trying to sweep a season series from Phoenix for the first time since winning all four matchups in 2008-09. Getting swept by Chicago would only further damage the Coyotes' playoff hopes after they reached the conference finals last year. They're 11th in the West and five points behind Columbus for the eighth and final playoff position. Getting outscored 9-3 during a three-game slide hasn't helped. Those struggles continued with Thursday's 2-1 shootout defeat to St. Louis, Phoenix's 10th loss in 12 road games. "It was a gritty performance," coach Dave Tippett said. "We were desperate for points and at times we were really strong in the game." Shane Doan struggles to find the net as the visitor despite leading the Coyotes with 13 goals. He's mustered four on the road, and none in the past seven contests. The captain didn't get a point in the most recent meeting with the Blackhawks, but had a goal and an assist in a 6-4 loss on Jan. 20.
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