Streaking Blackhawks, Coyotes battle in Chicago

( - Two of the Western Conference's top teams will square off Thursday in the Windy City, as the Chicago Blackhawks host the Phoenix Coyotes in a showdown at the United Center.

The Blackhawks and Coyotes enter Thursday with 28 points apiece, tying them for second in the conference along with Colorado. Both Chicago and Phoenix have been playing terrific hockey of late, with the Blackhawks sporting a 6-0-1 record in their last seven games and the Coyotes posting a 7-1-0 mark during an eight-game stretch.

Chicago has won three straight to match its longest winning streak of the season. Joel Quenneville's club recorded a 5-4 win Sunday against Edmonton, giving the Blackhawks five or more goals in five of their last seven games.

Marcus Kruger and Duncan Keith scored less than two minutes apart in the third period to help the Blackhawks edge the visiting Oilers in a high-scoring affair. Bryan Bickell also scored in the final period for the defending Stanley Cup champions, while Corey Crawford recorded the win despite allowing four goals on just 23 shots.

"That's the kind of game that's kind of dangerous, when the away team hangs around," Crawford said. "That was a big win for us."

The Blackhawks also received goals from Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw. Chicago has scored 32 goals over its last seven games and is currently second in the NHL with an average of 3.56 goals per contest.

Sunday's win pushed Chicago's home record this season to 7-1-3. After tonight's home tilt, the Blackhawks will close November by playing eight of nine on the road.

Although Chicago has won five of the past nine overall meetings against the Coyotes, Phoenix has recorded three straight victories at the United Center.

The Blackhawks won two of the three meetings during last year's lockout- shortened season, with Phoenix's lone win coming in a 3-2 shootout win in Chicago on April 20. Chicago beat the Coyotes by a combined 12-6 margin in the two road games in Arizona last season.

Phoenix has done most of its damage on home ice this season, going 8-0-1 in the desert and5-4-1 everywhere else. However, the Coyotes are coming off an impressive road win, as they downed St. Louis, 3-2, in overtime on Tuesday. It was just the third loss on home ice this season for the Blues, who were 7-1-1 at Scottrade Center heading into the game.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored 56 seconds into the extra session to lift the Coyotes past St. Louis. David Moss and Mikkel Boedker lit the lamp in regulation for the Coyotes, while Mike Smith made 37 saves to help steal two points in a game that saw Phoenix get outshot by a 39-19 margin.

"It was nice for me to play like that tonight and to bail the guys out," Smith said.

Smith, who has started 17 of 19 games for Phoenix this season, is 5-3-0 with a 2.77 goals against average in eight career games against the Blackhawks. Crawford is 3-1-2 with a 2.68 GAA in seven outings versus the Coyotes.

Coyotes forwards Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata are questionable for Thursday's game. Hanzal sat out Tuesday's game in St. Louis with an unspecified injury, while Vrbata has missed the last two tilts with a lower- body issue.