After a six-day layoff, the Blackhawks return to action on Thursday night and it will be the first of seven consecutive home games, which is tied for the second-longest homestand in franchise history. It serves as a great opportunity for the Blackhawks to get off to a strong start.
But it also serves as an opportunity to reestablish home-ice advantage.
Over the last decade, the United Center has been viewed by opponents as a fun but difficult place to play in. And it's true. But the latter hasn't been the case for the past two seasons.
This is where the Blackhawks have finished in total points at home since the 2008-09 season:
2008-09: 7th (56 points)
2009-10: 3rd (62)
2010-11: 17th (48)
2011-12: 3rd (60)
2012-13: 1st (39) — lockout-shortened season
2013-14: 4th (61)
2014-15: 9th (53)
2015-16: 4th (56)
2016-17: 4th (57)
2017-18: 25th (41)
2018-19: 20th (46)
As you can see, the Blackhawks went from being in the top tier to the bottom pretty quickly and it's something they're aware of.
"It's always been a tough place to play, but I think the last couple years we got away from that a little bit," Patrick Kane said. "We want to use it to our advantage. We know that a lot of teams are going to come in and be excited to be playing at the United Center because it's such a great atmosphere but we also got to make it tough on them, especially a team like tonight. They're struggling a little bit, let's not make it easy for them or give them something to feel excited about."
The San Jose Sharks come to town with an 0-4-0 record after reaching the Western Conference Final a few months ago. They're a vulnerable team right now, but the Blackhawks know their desperation level will be high and this year they want to try bringing their A-game as much as possible, especially in their own barn.
"We can establish a rhythm here," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Everyone feels comfortable in this building, with our fans, and we'd like to establish that this is a difficult place to play, a difficult place to come in and get points."
The Blackhawks take a lot of pride in performing well in front of their own fans. It's why they're putting so much emphasis on having a better home record this season.
But it's also because the Blackhawks are accustomed to taking care of business on home ice and it translates to success in the overall standings. That will be a key factor as they look to return to playoff contention, considering they've also finished 22nd and 24th in road points over the last two seasons, respectively.
"It's huge," Jonathan Toews said. "It has to be part of our identity, maybe something that hasn't been there these last few seasons. Something we'll talk about in the locker room that we've got to be conscious of. Teams got to have that thought in their head when they come into this building that it's not going to be an easy night and they're going to have to work for what they get, especially getting points against us in this building. So it's a good way to start. Let's start with that this month."