Coach Joel Quenneville was feeling a lot more confident about the Blackhawks’ chances of catching the Blues in the Central Division before watching St. Louis earn two more points before his team even took the ice Sunday.
“Better before (that) game started, obviously,” Quenneville said before puck drop against the Predators.
The confidence meter dropped even lower when the Hawks lost a game they couldn’t afford as they fell 2-0 in front of 21,727 at the United Center.
After making plenty of news off the ice Friday, the Blackhawks still had a hockey game to play.
The defending Stanley Cup champions faced off against the Carolina Hurricanes at the United Center hoping to edge closer to the idle St. Louis Blues in the Central Division.
They did just that as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg scored to lift the Hawks past the Hurricanes 3-2. The Hawks won their second consecutive game and extended their points streak to four to pull within four points of the idle Blues.
Corey Crawford made 26 saves to earn the victory as the Hawks improved to 41-15-15 on the season. Alexander Semin had both goals for the Hurricanes, who dropped to 30-31-9. Anton Khudobin suffered the loss in goal.
On a night when the Blackhawks thoroughly dominated the red-hot Blues to tighten the Central Division race, the defending Stanley Cup champions’ celebration was tempered because of an injury to leading scorer Patrick Kane.
The winger will be sidelined about three weeks with an apparent left knee injury, which would not be a worst-case scenario as Kane limped to the bench and into the dressing room after Blues forward Brendan Morrow accidentally rolled into him after a check from the Hawks’ Sheldon Brookbank.
“It was a freak play,” coach Joel Quenneville said after the Hawks throttled the Blues 4-0 before a crowd of 21,640 at the United Center. “It can happen. We’ve been fortunate most of the year. We’ll deal with it.”
Asked if Kane would return before the regular season ends — the Hawks have 12 games remaining before the playoffs — Quenneville said: “We’ll see.
Before the Blackhawks headed home to begin a last-gasp attempt at catching the Blues in the Central Division, the defending Stanley Cup champions first had to take care of business against the Flyers.
At the scene of perhaps the franchise’s great triumph when it captured the 2010 Cup, the Hawks weren’t able to pick up two valuable points as they fell 3-2 to the Flyers in overtime Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
The point moved the Hawks into a tie for second place in the Central, eight points behind the surging Blues with a showdown set between the rivals for Wednesday night at the United Center.
Claude Giroux scored the game-winner for the Flyers with 4.2 seconds remaining in overtime while Scott Hartnell had two goals in regulation.
The Blackhawks looked way out of sorts with Marian Hossa missing from the lineup.
With the veteran winger back, they more resembled the team that stormed to the Stanley Cup last season.
Hossa returned after a five-game absence with an upper-body injury to help the Hawks break out of the doldrums with a 4-1 victory over the Red Wings on Sunday night at the United Center. The win snapped a two-game skid for the Hawks and they remained one point behind the second-place Avalanche in the Central Division.
With each passing game, the Blackhawks are beginning to resemble exactly what they are: A third-place hockey team.
The Hawks lost for the fifth time in their last eight outings when the Predators beat them 3-2 on Friday night at the United Center. The defending Stanley Cup champions began the night in third in the Central Division and remain there with 15 games remaining in the regular season.
“Our pace to our game and our intelligence to our game were non-existent the last couple of games,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said.
Mike Fisher, Patric Hornqvist and Ryan Ellis scored for the Predators with Roman Josi assisting on all three goals and Shea Weber on two. Pekka Rinne came up big in goal with 31 saves, giving in only to Jonathan Toews and Peter Regin.
Right around the time Antti Raanta checked into his hotel room in mid-November, it struck the Blackhawks goaltender that he would made his NHL debut against the Avalanche in the Mile High City.
“I remembered (Tuesday), when we came here,” Raanta said. “Same hotel and I think the same hotel room. Everything came to my mind.”
Raanta made some more memories against the Avs on Wednesday night, though they weren’t all that pleasant as the rookie suffered the loss as the Hawks fell 3-2 in an entertaining contest at the Pepsi Center. It marked the fourth time in five meetings this season the Avs have defeated the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly each had a goal and an assist, Brad Malone also scored and netminder Semyon Varlamov made the goals stand up as the Avalanche vaulted over the Hawks into second place in the Central Division with 91 points.
Patrick Kane scored a highlight-reel goal and Brandon Saad found the back of the net late for the Hawks but it wasn’t enough ass Raanta dropped to 12-3-3 on the season. With the teams currently locked into second and third in the division, the game was a possible first-round playoff series preview.
Fans filed into the First Niagara Center and took their seats shortly before the players took the ice — for the morning skate.
“I’ve never seen that many people at a morning skate,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “I’m sure Kaner had a lot to do with that.”
St. Patrick’s Day came a week early in Buffalo as Patrick Kane returned to his hometown with the defending Stanley Cup champions in tow.
It was the Hawks’ — and Kane’s — first appearance in Buffalo since October of 2010 and many in the crowd Sunday wore No. 88 sweaters and cheered when the winger was introduced and not long into the game when he scored a highlight-reel goal.
Those made for festive moments in a hockey game that didn’t display any kind of pace until an entertaining third period. When the final horn sounded, the Hawks had survived a scare from the NHL’s worst team with a 2-1 victory over the Sabres.
Jonathan Toews scored the decisive goal to give the Hawks their second consecutive victory and keep pace with the Blues in the Central Division. Corey Crawford made the scores by Kane and Toews hold up with 20 saves, allowing only a goal by Drew Stafford.
No more Olympics, outdoor games or trade deadlines.
All that remains for the Blackhawks is a final sprint to the finish of the regular season.
“There are no more distractions,” defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “The only thing you have to focus on now is to put yourself in as good a situation as possible going into the playoffs. Even though it has been a lot of fun having all the other stuff, it’s going to be nice to just focus on playing some hockey now.”
The Hawks played some impressive hockey Thursday night against the Blue Jackets and came away with a 6-1 triumph before a crowd of 21,179 at the United Center. The distraction-free victory was the defending Stanley Cup champions’ second in their last five games as they continue their dogfight with the Blues and Avalanche for the top spot in the Central Division.
There is a strong chance, based on how the competitive Central Division currently stands, that the Blackhawks and Avalanche will meet in the first round of the newly formatted NHL playoffs next month.
And if Tuesday night’s meeting serves as a true preview, there’s nothing reassuring about that possibility for the reigning Stanley Cup champs. Defenseman Tyson Barrie’s third-period power-play goal was the game-winner in the Avalanche’s 4-2 victory. It was their third triumph over the Hawks in four games this season.
With Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane all set to go for Thursday's playoff opener against the St. Louis Blues, the rest of the Chicagoo Blackhawks carry a little extra spring in their steps -- or rather, their skates -- knowing both are back and healthy. […]