Blackhawks fall in Avalanche of goals

It’s November when that smell of the circus takes over the United Center and sends the Blackhawks packing.

According to Patrick Sharp, the Hawks really don’t mind getting away as a team when the circus comes to town.

“It’s always something we circle on the calendar,” Sharp said. “We like to get away and spend time with each other. It brings us together as a team.

“It’s a perfect time to go with (Kris) Versteeg back. He’s already fitting in and making everyone laugh.”

No one was laughing Tuesday night after the first game of the road trip as the Hawks kicked off their seven-game trek with a dud of a loss at Colorado.

The Avalanche took a 3-0 lead out of the first period, chasing starter Corey Crawford, en route to a 5-1 victory at the Pepsi Center.

Crawford allowed 3 goals on 7 shots and was lifted for Finnish rookie Antti Raanta, who made his NHL debut.

Crawford had basically no chance on goals by Paul Stastny, Gabriel Landeskog and John Mitchell before leaving after Mitchell’s goal at 13:17.

Raanta let P.A. Parenteau beat him short side from the left circle late in the second period after the Hawks had dominated the first 15 minutes. Cody McLeod scored on a rebound early in the third.

The Hawks outshot the Avs 37-23 but couldn’t solve goalie Semyon Varlamov until Brandon Saad scored after it was 5-0.

The Avs, who snapped a three-game losing streak after starting the season 12-1, played without leading scorer Matt Duchene, who is sidelined for at least a week with an oblique injury.

“We gave them the first couple goals,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville told reporters. “We had the puck and it ended up in the back of our net. We gave them confidence. They were a team that needed some, and we gave it to them.”

The Hawks played their third straight game without Marian Hossa, who has a lower-body injury. Hossa participated in the morning skate, but it was determined after that he couldn’t play.

Quenneville is hopeful Hossa can return Thursday at Winnipeg.

“He’s close,” Quenneville told reporters before the game. “The last couple three games we were hopeful that he could play, so we’ll go into Winnipeg thinking that he’ll be definitely on the radar.”

The Hawks lost winger Bryan Bickell in the first period with what appeared to be a left-leg injury, the result of him crashing into the Avs’ net. “We’ll see more (Wednesday). It might be more than day to day, but I’m not sure yet,” Quenneville said.

The Avs have come out of nowhere to contend early in the season in the Central Division behind a young core of players all drafted high such as Duchene, Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon.

“You look at this team here and the last couple years they’ve got some top-end skill and eventually you should be able to progress and put yourself in a spot where you’re contending,” Quenneville said.

The Hawks were in a similar spot a few years ago when they drafted Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in back-to-back years.

Kane turned 25 on Tuesday and already has accomplished so much in seven years, such as winning two Stanley Cups, the 2013 Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP and the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 2008.

“This is definitely the longest I’ve ever been with one team in my hockey career,” Kane told reporters. “It’s been a great ride coming in here at 18 years old to where I am now. A lot of good things have happened to this organization and to myself, and to be a part of it has been pretty fun. It seems like time is flying by.”

ŸFollow Tim’s hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at

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