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Fun’s over for Hawks, now it’s back to business

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

WASHINGTON — At least the Blackhawks weren’t just sitting, watching and impatiently waiting to play as other teams caught them in the Western Conference standings.

As memorable and life-changing as their three-night trip to Washington has been — from the visit to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to the White House ceremony to skating with the Wounded Warriors hockey team — all of it provided a welcome break from what is an all-out grind of a playoff race.

Despite their recent eight-game winning streak, the Hawks were tied with four teams in the West with 81 points before Saturday’s games.

“We’ve had a lot of fun doing the hospital visit and going to the White House, but we’re excited now to just focus on hockey and get back at it,” Troy Brouwer said Saturday. “Over the last couple of days, we haven’t played too many times, but other teams have been able to catch us.

“We thought we’d be all right with an eight-game winning streak, but in this conference, you’ve got to continue winning. You can’t get into any slumps.”

Having lost their last two games, a defeat today against the Washington Capitals, who have won seven straight, would be a slump for the Hawks. It doesn’t get any easier with the San Jose Sharks waiting for them in Chicago for another huge game Monday night.

“[The Capitals are] a really good team with a lot of skilled players,” winger Patrick Kane said. “They didn’t start out that great .  .  . but they’ve been turning the corner as of late. Against them, you don’t want to get into a run-and-gun match because it seems like the teams that do that end up losing.”

In their last two games, the Hawks showed the ability to rally. But another slow start, like the one they had against the Florida Panthers after a two-day break, could be disastrous against the Caps.

That game-on switch could be tough to flip for the Hawks because they have played only twice in the last week and have had three days without a game.

“[Despite] the last couple of days, we still know the importance and the meaning of these two points,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You look at all the teams at 81 — that should definitely get our attention.”

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