With playoffs looming, it's now or never for Blackhawks
It's now or never for the Blackhawks.
Buried at the bottom of the Western Conference standings all season, the Hawks began a daunting 10-game stretch with a home game against Minnesota on Friday.
When it's over, we'll know if interim coach Derek King's squad has any chance of qualifying for the postseason.
The players, not surprisingly, believe it's possible. Yet, the odds are not good.
The eighth-seeded team in the West will likely need 92-96 points. For the Hawks (15-19-6) to get to 92 they'll need to go something like 27-14-2 the rest of the way.
The Hawks went 4-1-1 against six mediocre/struggling teams before getting blown out by the Wild.
"We're pretty well aware where we are in the standings," said Jonathan Toews. "Every game's been tough this year and it's only gonna get harder. We've got to keep raising our game."
Over the next three weeks the Hawks face the Wild twice, the Avs (27-8-3) twice and also play at Edmonton (18-16-2), St. Louis (23-11-5) and Winnipeg (17-13-6).
"We need to worry about how we approach these games," King said. "For three periods, we need to play good, solid, structured hockey. Can't make too many mistakes because these guys will put it in the back of your net. Hopefully (we) are focused for the stretch here."
Minnesota Wild forward Ryan Hartman, who grew up in West Dundee and was drafted by the Blackhawks in 2013, still keeps in touch with former Chicago Mission teammates like Vinnie Hinostroza. Hartman, who is having a career season for Minnesota, says he talks with Hinostroza "mostly every day."
"Got a group chat from all the friends back home," Hartman said. "Shoot the (breeze). Mess around with each other. Go over our daily college basketball bets."
Hinostroza, who has 8 goals in 36 games for Buffalo, is now married with a baby. Because of that, Hartman admitted it may be tough to see his buddy much next summer.
"He's taken that next step, so it's time for me to get the ball rolling," said Hartman, who has been dating the same girl for nine years. "We probably had eight weddings last summer; we only could go to four or five. We probably have six this summer we're invited to. ...
"Maybe I can use the excuse of I'm the one getting married this year so I can't go to any other weddings."
He said it:
"Means I'm old, probably."
Marc-Andre Fleury when asked what it feels like to have Drew Commesso call him a legend. Commesso, a second-round pick of the Hawks in 2020, was named to the U.S. Olympic team this week.
Dylan Strome and Kirby Dach played against Minnesota on Friday after coming out of COVID protocol. Strome, who centered the top line with Patrick Kane and Brandon Hagel on the wings, scored the Hawks' lone goal with 5:03 remaining. Strome has 4 goals on the season. ... Defenseman Riley Stillman reinjured his shoulder Friday and will not play against Minnesota on Saturday. ... Forward Jujhar Khaira is dealing with a lower-back issue and is day-to-day. ... Reese Johnson (fractured clavicle) is expected to be on the ice next week, and coach Derek King believes the forward might be able to play again this season. Johnson has 1 goal and 3 assists in 18 games.