While their respective 2022-23 seasons have produced poor results for the most part, the Chicago Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes can find some solace in a recent spell of good play that has produced wins.
Entering Saturday night’s final meeting this season in Tempe, Ariz., both teams reside towards the bottom of the Western Conference’s Central Division — Arizona (26-32-11, 63 points) in seventh and Chicago (24-38-6, 54 points) in the cellar.
In three previous matchups, the Blackhawks have been victorious twice on home ice — 2-0 behind a 22-save performance by goaltender Alex Stalock on Jan. 6 and 4-3 in overtime on Caleb Jones’ game-winner on Feb. 10.
Stalock, who recorded his first shutout with Chicago in the January win, has provided a calming, veteran presence in the crease during the Blackhawks’ two-game winning streak.
After missing both games due to a non-COVID illness in the Sunshine State against the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning, the 35-year-old returned with a vengeance against the NHL-leading Boston Bruins and red-hot Nashville Predators.
In relief of Petr Mrazek, who reaggravated a groin injury in the middle of the second period, Stalock stopped 23 of 26 shots in Tuesday’s 6-3 win over the league-leading Bruins.
He backed that up with a 35-save showing in Thursday night’s 2-1 triumph over the Nashville Predators, who had won three straight and had earned points in six of seven games (5-1-1).
Stalock gave credit to his defense, saying it made point-producing Predators defenseman Roman Josi less of a factor than usual in the match.
“Our (defense) did a great job boxing out,” said Stalock, who did allow the only tally to Josi with 25 seconds left and Nashville’s net empty for the extra skater. “Our forwards eliminated some dangerous shooters. That might have been Josi’s really only threat all night.
“To eliminate a guy like that from the game, it’s a good job by our forwards staying on him and chasing him around the zone and staying between him and the net.”
On Feb. 28 in the desert, the Coyotes earned a 4-1 win over Chicago. Travis Boyd, Jack McBain, Barrett Hayton and Nick Schmaltz tallied as Arizona broke a two-game losing skid.
In his season debut on Mar. 9, Arizona goalie Ivan Prosvetov made 39 saves as the home side ousted Nashville 4-1.
Prosvetov allowed just two goals on 31 shots by visiting Vancouver in his second start this season Thursday night. Riding a five-game winning streak, the Canucks arrived in Arizona expecting to make it six, but Prosvetov, 24, turned back the Pacific Division club in a 3-2 win.
He improved to 2-0-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average and .958 save percentage since being recalled from the AHL Tucson Roadrunners this month.
In ending Vancouver’s five-win run, the Coyotes were winners for the fifth straight time at home and are on a seven-game point streak overall (5-0-2).
“We’ve just got a lot of belief in each other right now,” said Boyd, who scored twice in the win. “We’ve proven to ourselves that if we play the right way, any given night we can beat any given team. I think that’s what you’re seeing right now.”
Second on the club with 21 goals, Schmaltz missed his third consecutive game with a lower-body injury.