NHL realignment OK’d; Blackhawks get less Red Wings, lighter travel
BY MARK potash firstname.lastname@example.org
Chicago Blackhawks v Columbus Blue Jackets
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The NHL board of governors, as expected, approved a realignment play for the 2013-14 season that will keep the Blackhawks in the Western Conference but send the rival Detroit Red Wings to the East.
The Hawks will be in a yet-to-be-named division that also includes the St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Colorado Avalanche and Winnipeg Jets.
Though the loss of the Red Wings is regrettable to Blackhawks fans, the Hawks are not otherwise affected much by the change. Under the new setup, the Hawks will play four or five games against division opponents, three games against their other conference opponents and home-and-homes against Eastern Conference teams. That means the Hawks will play the Red Wings twice each season.
‘‘[It’s] comparable with some of the teams in our [current] division,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘Basically everybody’s in the same time zone — travel will probably be a little lighter for us. I like the fact that you get to see everybody once. It will be nice going in every building. Everybody gets to see all the teams around the league. It’s healthy in that way.’’
‘D’ does it
For better or worse, it all starts with defense for the Hawks. It sparked their record-setting streak of 24 consecutive games without a regulation loss. And it was the culprit when that historic streak ended.
‘‘We were playing good hockey, and the last two games we gave up six goals. We need to play better defense,’’ forward Bryan Bickell said. ‘‘We got away from it. Our goalie’s been playing great and we didn’t give him [Corey Crawford] many opportunities to make those saves — back-door tap-ins, every one of them. We need to focus on defense and our offense will come.’’
The Hawks were on auto-pilot during most of their 24-game streak. Once it ended, they were happy to get three days between games for the first time this season.
‘‘We’ve been playing a lot of games,’’ Patrick Kane said. ‘‘Seven games in 11 days. We dropped our last two. It’s kind of nice to get away and regroup and just think about almost starting over again like we did at the beginning of the season — we started on that road trip. Now we can do that again with another four-game road trip here.’’
Forward Patrick Sharp is expected to miss another two weeks at least with a separated shoulder, but he is close to returning to the ice a week after suffering the injury against the Colorado Avalanche last week.
‘‘Sharpie’s progressing,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘He was hoping to hit the ice [Thursday or Friday].’’
Winger Andrew Shaw was ready to go after three days without a game, and it showed in the first period when he tangled with the Blue Jackets’ Matt Calvert. There was nothing close to a knockout blow, but Shaw got enough shots in for a narrow, but not undisputed, victory.