If the playoffs started today, the Blackhawks would be on the outside looking in.
It's still the middle of December, but the longer the Hawks go without separating themselves from the pack in the Western Conference, the more real the chances become of them missing the playoffs as defending Stanley Cup champions.
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The Hawks stumbled at home again Wednesday night, letting Colorado score three times in the third period in a 4-3 loss at the United Center.
"We know what the standings are, we know what they look like, but we've got a lot of hockey to go," Hawks center Patrick Sharp said.
Tomas Fleischmann got all 3 Colorado goals in the third period for the hat trick. Two of them came early during a four-minute power play to snap a 1-1 tie with Jordan Hendry serving a controversial high-sticking penalty against Matt Winnik.
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville thought it was a poor judgment call by referees Stephane Auger and Don VanMassenhoven.
"I didn't see the play live and I just looked at the replay and I totally disagree with the call, but we've still got to get through that," Quenneville said. "He hit his glove. From outside I don't even know how you can see something like that. You've got to be right when you make that call."
Hendry stopped short of agreeing that it was a bad call.
"I don't know if he hit my elbow or my hand," Hendry said. "It's a tough call, but that can't happen."
This is supposed when the Hawks assert themselves in the West, with Wednesday's game beginning a stretch of 13 of 18 games at the United Center. However, the Hawks play better on the road with the proof being their 8-9 record on home ice.
Oh, yeah, and Detroit is coming to town Friday.
There were boos at the UC in the closing minutes of this latest loss.
"We're going to have to keep searching for answers and working for something more when you don't win, that's all there is to it," captain Jonathan Toews said. "We won't get down on ourselves and we'll keep moving forward.
"It's not fun being booed out of your own rink at home. I don't know what to say. It's frustrating."
The Hawks outshot the Avs 38-23, but goalie Craig Anderson made 29 of his saves in the first two periods to keep it 1-1 going to the third.
"Again we can talk all day about doing some good thing out there, working for chances and working for second chances around the net, but it just doesn't cut it when you don't get the results you want," Toews said.
Quenneville talked before the game about the hole the Hawks had dug for themselves in the standings that's a little deeper now.
"We probably can count 6 or 8 (points) left on the table early, so that's a whole different place than where we're at today,"Quenneville said. "That's probably the gravy we might be wishing for later."
Tim Sassone's game tracker
Avalanche 4, Blackhawks 3
1. Tomas Fleischmann, Avs: Three goals in the third period, 2 of them during a four-minute power play.
2. Craig Anderson, Avs: Made 35 saves to beat his old team for the third time this season.
3. Bryan Bickell, Hawks: A goal, an assist and 4 hits in 18 minutes.
Just what the Hawks didn't need was another injury at forward, but Viktor Stalberg left late in the second period after being boarded from behind by Colorado's Ryan O'Byrne.