Two teams battling to stay out of the Central Division cellar will square off on Friday when the Arizona Coyotes visit the Chicago Blackhawks.
Arizona holds a five-point lead over Chicago for seventh place heading into the contest but the Blackhawks, who have dropped four of their last five games, still have two games in hand.
Both teams are also among the top four in the Connor Bedard draft sweepstakes. Columbus (34) currently has the fewest points in the NHL, one point ahead of Chicago (35) with Arizona and Anaheim tied for third-fewest (40).
The team with the worst record has an 18.5 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick, expected to be Bedard, who is regarded as a generational talent in the Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid mold. Second place has a 13.5 percent shot in the lottery while third comes in at 11.5 percent.
The contest also could be one of the final home games for Patrick Kane in a Blackhawks uniform.
Kane has been the topic of a number of trade rumors approaching the March 3 trade deadline. The 2016 Hart Trophy (MVP) and Art Ross (scoring) winner is in the final year of an eight-year contract that has a $10.5 million salary cap hit and a full no-movement clause that he would have to waive.
Prior to Chicago’s 3-2 overtime loss to visiting Anaheim on Tuesday, Kane used the word “cherish” when it came to playing home games before the trade deadline.
“I think you’ll probably cherish these games a little more before the deadline not knowing what’s going to happen,” Kane said. “It’s always exciting playing at home. I’ve always loved playing at the United Center in front of the crowd here. Kind of wish we had a little more time here this month but it is what it is. Cherish these games.”
Arizona is a Western Conference-worst 6-20-4 on the road this season but is 4-5-1 over its last 10 games overall, including a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Monday in Tempe, Ariz.
Jack McBain scored the game-winner for the Coyotes on a breakaway at the 13:13 mark of the third period while Jakob Chychrun, also a hot topic when it comes to trade discussions, scored two goals. Karel Vejmelka finished with 33 saves to win his third consecutive start.
McBain sliced in from the left wing and beat Marc-Andre Fleury with a backhand shot into the upper right corner of the net for his seventh goal of the season.
“It wasn’t too pretty, the puck was rolling and I was trying to get it up and going and it worked out,” McBain said.
“We played well (and) we were confident in the way we played,” Arizona coach Andre Tourigny said. “We knew, even trailing 1-0, that it was not the end of it. We stayed with it and found a way.”
Chicago center Jonathan Toews, who missed Tuesday’s loss with a non-COVID illness, will sit out both Friday’s game and Saturday’s contest at Winnipeg but returned to the Blackhawks’ practice facility and worked out on Thursday.
“Tomorrow, he’ll skate on his own, or just have one more gym day,” Chicago coach Luke Richardson said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “He crushed my hand in a handshake, so that’s a good sign.”
–Field Level Media