SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Blackhawks players enjoyed their weekend break in different ways. Some laid low and enjoyed time with family. Others headed to the west coast and its sun early – "tried not to get a sunburn," said Scott Darling.
They feel better. They feel a little more rested. And they feel they're ready to get back to playing how they did earlier this season and not how they finished their final two games before the All-Star break.
The Blackhawks limped into the break, losing their final two games in the third period, something that's been unusual for them. Now it's time for their other lengthy road trip of the season, which begins Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks.
"Losing two games in the third – we haven't done it in a long time – was frustrating, knowing the second game you have [four] minutes to go to get a point or two, and you come up with air. So certainly disappointing way to go into the break," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Now we have a great challenge, six in a row on the road, starting off with one of the best. Right off the bat we'll be trying to recapture some confidence here, do the right things."
"Yeah, the last one was a tough one. The last two, losing a lead in the third period is something's that uncharacteristic for us," Darling said. "You could say it came at a good time. I think everybody enjoyed themselves and got away with their family and we were all excited to see each other today."
That excitement needs to translate to the ice, where third periods have suddenly become a bane. They were flirting with third-period danger in earlier games this season but until last Tuesday, they kept pulling a point or two out of those games. The Blackhawks are still in good shape coming out of the break – they're second overall in the Western Conference, four points behind the first-place Minnesota Wild. The Wild still have three games in hand.
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While the Blackhawks always have an eye on who's around them in the standings they can't get caught in the trap of paying more attention to opponents more than their own game.
"We put ourselves in a good spot early. Now we've just been here," Quenneville said. "We lost some ground against Minnesota. We want to get back, try to recapture where we were most of the year but the most important thing is we want to be playing our best hockey as we're progressing right now."
The Blackhawks will play six more games before they get another break, the bye week that the NHL started implementing this season. Most of the Blackhawks players got a welcome respite this past weekend. Whether or not they make up ground on the Wild remains to be seen but they've got to get back to closing out games they way they did well before the break.
"The two losses the way we had [them], we should have those games. A couple of minutes left, it definitely hurts," Marian Hossa said. "We’ve been very busy. Having a nice three days off, it definitely helps to step back from hockey for a second and recharge and get some energy back and continue again."