Crucial stretch on horizon for Hawks

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • The Hawks' Brandon Saad celebrates scoring the winning goal in OT against Winnipeg on Friday.

    The Hawks' Brandon Saad celebrates scoring the winning goal in OT against Winnipeg on Friday. Associated Press

  • Coach Joel Quenneville, who won his 300th game as head coach of the Hawks on Friday, said, "It's been really fun in Chicago."

    Coach Joel Quenneville, who won his 300th game as head coach of the Hawks on Friday, said, "It's been really fun in Chicago." Associated Press

 
By Brian Hedger
Special to the Daily Herald
Posted2/8/2015 7:35 AM

It might not seem like it, but the Blackhawks still have a chance to salvage a winning record from their Ice Show trip that concludes Sunday in St. Louis.

If they can beat the Blues, the Hawks will head home with a 4-3 record on the trip, which was broken up by the all-star break and a quick return home last week for two off days. Following the game Sunday, eight straight home contests await.

 

It could be a chance to string some wins together again, after winning consecutive games just two times in their previous 20.

"It's kind of like where we were earlier in the season, when we'd win one, lose one," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told reporters Saturday after practice. "But when we were looking at our schedule, facing the seven toughest road games that you're ever going to see on any schedule, and we've got a chance to be .500 on the trip, it'd be a nice accomplishment. Then you've got some home games that you look to take advantage of."

The Blues are second in the Central Division with 72 points, sitting 6 points ahead of the third-place Blackhawks after 52 games. The Nashville Predators (74 points) are in first after beating the New York Rangers 3-2 on Saturday. If the Hawks want to close the gap, they have to start winning consistently.

They've already shown it's possible by going 17-3-0 during a 20-game stretch between November and December, including a season high eight-game winning streak.

"We'd certainly like to put a run together," Quenneville said. "St. Louis was on an amazing run and Nashville's had a couple of big runs this year. That's what you've got to do. You've got to stretch a 10-game or 12-game segment and (pick) up points in 11 or 10 of the games. We seem to do that over the course of a year a couple of times and we're hoping to have one here soon."

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Q stays focused:

The victory Friday against the Jets was the 300th for Joel Quenneville as coach of the Blackhawks, making him the second coach in NHL history to win at least 300 games with two separate franchises.

Asked about it a day later, he didn't reminisce much.

"It's been really fun in Chicago," Quenneville said. "We had a great group of guys, right from the outset. The first year going to the (Western Conference) championship and then the next year winning the (Stanley Cup), all great memories, great teams.

"(We) went through some different guys through the years here. I'm just enjoying it while we can right now. Things happen quickly in our business and they change quickly as well. So, I'm sure there will be plenty of time at the end to recapture and look back at it."

Kane/Oduya will play:

Patrick Kane and Johnny Oduya didn't practice Saturday, but Joel Quenneville said both are expected to play in the Sunday matinee.

Corey Crawford will start in net again, and forward Daniel Carcillo is likely to play on the fourth line again. Quenneville was pleased with Carcillo's game against the Jets, including his fight in the first period against Chris Thorburn. It was Carcillo's first game since a serving a six-game suspension for injuring Winnipeg forward Mathieu Perreault with a cross-check Jan. 16 at the United Center.

"I thought he did an outstanding job of doing what he had to do, and took care of what he had to take care of," Quenneville said.

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