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Blackhawks hoping to rediscover their groove on ice-show trip

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BLACKHAWKS
AT FLAMES

The facts: 8:30 p.m., CSN, 720-AM.

Updated: January 27, 2014 8:32PM



The Blackhawks left the frozen tundra of Chicago for the relative ‘‘warmth’’ of Calgary on Monday, embarking on their annual ice-show trip as Disney invades the United Center.

It usually means lighthearted talk about bonding on the road, playing freely without the distractions of home life, playing Mario Kart in the hotel, a quick side trip to Las Vegas and gathering as a team to watch the Super Bowl.

But the mood was decidedly different this time around.

‘‘Let’s look at the short term,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said after a disheartening 3-1 loss Sunday to the Winnipeg Jets. ‘‘Let’s look at Calgary. Let’s be angry about what happened.’’

Angry, frustrated, disappointed — the only momentum the Hawks are bringing with them is negative momentum. Consecutive losses to the Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild and Jets have all but erased the good vibes from the Hawks’ sweep of the Anaheim Ducks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 17 and 19. It’s hardly a crisis, but the Ducks have extended their Western Conference lead to seven points and the St. Louis Blues have reduced the Hawks’ lead in the Central Division to one point and have three games in hand.

And this trip promises to be a tough one. After visiting the Flames, the Hawks play the Vancouver Canucks, then run the California gantlet — San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings and Ducks — before playing a solid Phoenix Coyotes squad and heading into the Olympic break.

‘‘Look at it on paper, it’s some tough buildings and some big games,’’ said Quenneville, who’s looking for more energy than the Hawks had in their brief two-game trip last week to Detroit and
Minnesota. ‘‘We didn’t have that pace that we’re accustomed to, and we’re going to need it going
forward.’’

The difficult nature of the trip might work to the Hawks’ advan-
tage. Aside from the fact that they’ve fared well on recent lengthy trips — 5-1 on the circus trip in
November, 4-0-2 on the ice-show trip last season — they’ve been at their best against the best.

‘‘We always seem to rise to the occasion when we’re playing these top teams, and then sometimes we let off the gas, it seems,’’ winger Kris Versteeg said. ‘‘But whoever we’re playing on this road trip, whether it’s a young, energized team in Calgary or Anaheim or L.A., we’re going to have to play the same way every game.’’

That means more energy, sounder defense and crisper offense, the kind of effort they got away from the last three games. As captain Jonathan Toews put it: ‘‘We need to get rid of these bad habits and get rid of them fast.’’

That’s because the Hawks have only six games left to get back on track before the Olympics. They won’t play another game at the United Center until March 4,
returning from the break with a road game against the New York Rangers, followed by the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field.

‘‘It’ll just be that much more exciting when we do come back,’’ goalie Corey Crawford said. ‘‘We play good on the road. We’ll be fine.’’



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