When the Blackhawks hit the ice this week, they’ll be doing it more for practices than for games.
Such is the NHL schedule: after going at a breakneck pace through December and January, the Blackhawks face a very quiet week. So will they be watching what’s going on with the busier teams in the Central Division?
“Not a lot,” Andrew Shaw said. “I mean you want to seal your own fate. You want to go out there and win every game; you don’t want to worry on another team losing games. You just do what you can to win your games.”
Yes, but the Blackhawks won’t have many opportunities to win or lose this week. After a busy schedule, the Blackhawks will play just two games between now and next Tuesday (they host the Nashville Predators on Thursday and the Washington Capitals on Sunday morning). The Dallas Stars, who are one point behind the Blackhawks in the Central Division, will play five. That busy Stars' schedule begins tonight when they’re at the Winnipeg Jets and ends next Tuesday when they face the Predators.
So how does a team that does so well when it’s busy handle a very quiet week?
“It’s always a key when you have these days off – they seem pretty rare – to make the most of them. Whether it’s rest or recovery, whatever you need, capitalize on that because obviously down the stretch it’s going to be pretty intense,” Trevor van Riemsdyk said. “There are a lot of really meaningful games so you have to be prepared for that. Any extra days off, you should focus on making the most of them, controlling what you can.”
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The Blackhawks are having a week similar to what the Stars had in early January, when Dallas had five days off (Jan. 10-14) between games. At that time, the Blackhawks were in the midst of a hot streak, eventually winning a franchise-record 12 consecutive games. Their winning streak, coupled with the Stars’ struggles at the time, catapulted the Blackhawks into first place in the Central Division. Will the Stars return the favor in this latest stretch? Maybe, maybe not, but the Blackhawks don’t plan on getting too caught up in what the Stars are doing this week.
“Some days you want to let your mind rest. Other times you want to watch and see how they’re doing,” van Riemsdyk said. “It’s just a daily thing; probably tune in here and there and other days make the most of the rest and take advantage of that.”
The Blackhawks have long been good about concentrating on their game and their needs instead of other teams. They’ll glance at the standings, they’ll make note of who’s doing what around them. But ultimately they need to worry about themselves and about playing well – when they do play this week.
“You always know where we’re at. We just try to focus on our game,” Teuvo Teravainen said. “That’s what we can really focus on, getting better and we’ll see what the other team’s doing.”
- Patrick Kane and Niklas Hjalmarsson had maintenance days on Tuesday. Both are expected to play on Thursday vs. the Nashville Predators.
- Erik Gustafsson, a healthy scratch on Sunday, should play Thursday against Nashville.
- Marian Hossa (lower body) should start skating later this week, coach Joel Quenneville said. Quenneville added that it was“tough to say” if Hossa would be ready for the Blackhawks’ Detroit/Boston back-to-back in early March.
- Marcus Kruger (wrist) skated on Tuesday but his timeline hasn’t change; he’s still not expected back until around the postseason’s start. Said Quenneville, “we know that his legs aren’t the problem. He’s still a ways away.”