Play at home will make or break Blackhawks
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Get ready for the most important week of the season for the Blackhawks.
If anyone thinks otherwise, consider this: If the Hawks don't sweep their three-game homestand with Minnesota, Columbus and Pittsburgh, they could find themselves too far behind the 8-ball in the Western Conference playoff race to catch up.
Not only are the Hawks treading water coming off a mediocre 2-2-2 road trip that made them 2-4-2 in their last eight games, the teams around them in the West -- Anaheim, Nashville, Phoenix, Calgary, Minnesota and Los Angeles -- all are playing better and more consistent hockey.
The Hawks are in 11th place with 3 points and three teams between them and a playoff spot.
Even coach Joel Quenneville and captain Jonathan Toews know the Hawks might not have a chance to be in the postseason if they don't either run the table in their final 13 home games or come close to it.
The Hawks are just 16-13 at the United Center with Quenneville last week blaming the poor home record for his team being in this predicament.
"We have to establish home ice," Quenneville said. "We have to take each game at a time, but we certainly have to play well on home ice and value those 2 points. That's going to make or break us.
"We have to win on the road as well, not just at home, but that's where we have to establish some momentum in our game."
Minnesota presently sits in the eighth and final playoff spot in the West with 65 points, 3 ahead of the Hawks. The Wild comes to UC on Wednesday and could be 5 up on the Hawks with a win over Vancouver (36-11-9) at home on Tuesday.
"We really have to use that atmosphere (at home) and just get more excited than anything to play," Toews said. "We have to come out flying at home and we'll be ready to do that this week."
The Hawks have 26 games to play, which might seem like a lot, but they're going to come and go quickly.
"There's plenty of time," Quenneville said. "We just have to make sure we manufacture our goal, and that's where we're at."
The Hawks insist confidence is not a problem in the dressing room. They believe they not only are a playoff team, but a club that could be dangerous in the postseason.
"Getting in is everything," Quenneville said.
"We need some momentum going. We know at this time of the year we have to be playing our best hockey to give ourselves a chance to compete for the playoffs. We have to put something together very meaningful. Sustaining a winning streak of some sort is something we have to manufacture and create right now."
General manager Stan Bowman said Friday in Dallas he hoped to acquire another defenseman with strength as a penalty killer, and now all eyes are on him to see if he can make it happen sooner than the Feb. 28 trade deadline.
But whether or not Bowman can make another trade won't change the GM's opinion of the team he has put together.
"We're always looking to get better, but we believe in these guys," Bowman said. "If we don't get a defenseman then we're confident with the guys we have."