Blackhawks focused on present, not long road trip
It's out there, lurking on the schedule as something nobody is ready to talk about.
When the Blackhawks come out of the all-star break that begins next week, they will come face-to-face with a nine-game road trip that starts Jan. 31 in Vancouver.
While it's a road trip that might make or break their chances of winning the Central Division and Western Conference, first things first.
The Hawks have three games remaining before the break, and that's all coach Joel Quenneville wants to think about right now.
"You look at the nine-game trip coming out of the break, and we'll be tested," Quenneville said. "But these games we're playing (before the break) are all big games."
Two of them are against Nashville, which has been making a run at the Hawks, Blues and Red Wings in the Central.
"We want to try and make sure we keep up with everybody in our division," Quenneville said. "Everyone is winning. We've got to win to stay ahead of everybody. I'm sure we'll be saying that every day."
The Hawks woke up Wednesday morning third in the Central but were back in first after their 6-2 win over Buffalo.
"You look at the standings every night and it changes," Brent Seabrook said. "One night we'll be in first, then we'll be in second, then third or fourth or fifth.
"Any given night, we could be in any position, and we've got to hold court here at home and play well at home and try to get as many points as we can at home and hold our spot."
Even a month ago it was difficult to imagine this happening to the Hawks: Four of their 12 forwards dressing for Wednesday's game against Buffalo were rookies.
"Pretty remarkable," coach Joel Quenneville said.
Rookie Marcus Kruger and Andrew Shaw skated on the second line with Marian Hossa. Rookie Jimmy Hayes played on the third line and rookie Ben Smith on the fourth.
Smith took the spot of slumping left winger Bryan Bickell, who has 1 goal in his last 29 games.
Shaw and Hayes scored again in the win. It was Shaw's fifth goal in eight games.
Nothing like a game against Buffalo to get the attention of Patrick Kane, a big fan of his hometown Sabres growing up.
"It's the first thing I look at when the schedule comes out to see if we're playing here or playing there," Kane said. "Every time we play them it's exciting for me and exciting for my family and friends."