Surprising Hawks

Glendale, AZ - Over the past 10 seasons, the Chicago Blackhawks' annual "circus" road trip has almost always contributed to struggles the team has been unable to overcome.

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The slumping Blackhawks hope things are different this time around as they begin a six-game, 11-day road trip Tuesday against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Phoenix -102 money line favorites (NHL Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 5.5 goals (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 50% of bets for this game have been placed on Phoenix -102 (View NHL Bet Percentages).

Chicago (7-4-5), which has lost three straight games overall and is 1-3-1 on the road thus far, has been to the postseason just once in the last 10 seasons - back in 2001-02. The Blackhawks have gone a cumulative 12-34-5 with five ties in those November swings when the circus hits Chicago in that span, including a 2-2-2 mark last season.

The last time they had a non-losing record on the annual trek was 2000-01, when they went 3-3-0 with two ties, and their last winning record on such a trip came in 1997-98, going 3-1-0 with two draws.

While they have struggled on the road early this season, the Blackhawks have won three of their last five at Phoenix and four of the last six overall between the teams, including a 4-1 victory at home on Oct. 15.

That win also marked the end of Denis Savard's coaching tenure, giving way to Joel Quenneville after a 1-2-1 start. Chicago went 7-1-3 in its first 11 games under Quenneville but has since slowed.

All three losses in the current losing streak have been by one goal, and Sunday's 6-5 defeat to San Jose dropped the Blackhawks to 1-7 in one-goal games. "There's some things we need to sharpen up," Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews said. "Especially in this three-game skid, we haven't played a solid, three-period game."

In Sunday's game, Chicago gave up four power-play goals in six chances and has allowed six in its last three games. In their first 11 games, the Blackhawks conceded just six goals in 57 penalty kills.

As their 8-8-0 record indicates, the Coyotes have been inconsistent and are trying to avoid a third consecutive loss. Phoenix started the season 2-0, lost three in a row, alternated wins and losses for six games, then reeled off three consecutive wins before its recent struggles, most recently a 3-2 loss Saturday to Dallas.

"We didn't fire on all cylinders," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "We had one line and one player playing well, and didn't have enough out of everybody."

In its up-and-down start, Phoenix hasn't gotten enough consistent offense and goaltending.

The Coyotes have scored twice in the last two games after getting 13 goals during their win streak. In its eight wins, Phoenix has averaged 3.75 goals, but only 1.25 per game in its losses.

Shane Doan does have two goals and three assists in the past four games, and defenseman Keith Yandle has four assists in the last five.

Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who has started all but two games, has given up seven goals in the past two games after surrendering 12 in the previous seven.

Bryzgalov (7-7-0) has lost four straight to Chicago despite giving up one goal in two of those starts. He also yielded five goals in less than 11 minutes in a defeat last season and had 26 saves in the Oct. 15 loss.

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Posted: 11/18/08 12:48 AM ET


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