Rested Blackhawks ready for fresh start
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org March 14, 2013 3:10PM
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Updated: March 14, 2013 8:42PM
After losing back-to-back games following a record-setting streak of 24 games without a regulation loss to start the 2012-13 season, the Blackhawks got what they needed most — some rest.
The Blackhawks were not going to go the entire season without losing in regulation. But the 6-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Denver and the 6-5 loss to the Edmonton Oilers at the United Center made it pretty clear that the compressed schedule of the lockout season was taking its toll. The Hawks needed a break.
After Sunday’s loss to the Oilers, the Hawks had three days between games for the first time this season. They did not practice Monday or Tuesday. They came back refreshed Wednesday at practice at Thursday morning at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.
‘‘We’ve been playing a lot of games,’’ forward Patrick Kane said after the morning skate prior to Thursday night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. ‘‘It was seven games in 11 days. We dropped our last two. It was kind of nice to get away and regroup and just think about almost starting over again like we did at the beginning of the season — we started on that road trip. Now we can do that again with another four-game road trip here.’’
Like many Hawks, Bryan Bickell still spent one of his days off on the ice. But he appreciated the chance to chill out.
’‘You still think about hockey [during the downtime]. But it’s nice to have a couple of days off the ice,’’ Bickell said. ‘‘We came into the rink one day just to keep everything fresh. It’s nice to have a little break to get over this little [losing] streak we’re having right now with a couple of losses and let them go and just focus on today.’’
Once the adrenaline of the opening of the season wore off, the Hawks relied on periodic rest to keep their streak alive. Their best stretch of the season came in February, when they played 11 games in 25 days and went 10-0-1 with a 39-16 goals differential. In four games with two days off before a game, they were 4-0-0 and outscored their opponents 14-5 — beating San Jose 2-1, 4-1 and 5-3 and Nashville 3-0.
But the stretch of seven games in 11 days to culminate a frenetic first seven weeks of the season was too much. In the last six games of that stretch, the Hawks were 4-2-0 and were outscored 21-20.
‘‘It feels like forever since we played,’’ Kane said. ‘‘It was nice to get a little break. They gave us two days away from the rink. When we came back I think everyone was kind of fresh. The last couple of practices have been really good. Hopefully that will lead to something tonight. It’s nice to have a few days off to regroup and refresh yourself.’’