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Blackhawks back to dominating ways after needed break

Patrick Kane Greg Zanon

Patrick Kane, Greg Zanon

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MONDAY

BLACKHAWKS AT AVALANCHE

The facts: 8, CSN Plus, 720-AM.

DENVER — The last time the Blackhawks came to the Mile High City — barely more than a week ago — their record season-opening 24-game point streak came to a crashing halt, as the Colorado Avalanche outskated and outplayed them in a 6-2 trouncing. Two nights later, the Hawks again gave up six goals in a home loss to Edmonton.

In those two games, the Hawks looked nothing like the team that steamrolled its way through the first half of the season. They looked ordinary, they looked human, they looked beatable.

But mostly, in the final two games of the most grueling portion of a grueling schedule, they just looked tired.

“You can’t get a busier stretch than seven [games] in 11 days,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said.

So Quenneville banished his players from the rink for two straight days — a rarity in any season, let alone one as compressed as this one. Turns out, all the Hawks needed was a break, as they’ve won two straight since — Thursday’s taut, shootout win at surging Columbus, and Saturday night’s 8-1 laugher at Dallas. Now the Hawks are back to feeling like their old selves as they head into what Patrick Kane called a “revenge” game against the Avalanche at the Pepsi Center.

“It was nice to have the little time off, to get away from the rink to let the streak settle in, what we did there,” Kane said. “I think everyone knew at some time we were going to lose a game, no matter when that was, but it wasn’t a good feeling. A lot of guys weren’t very happy about it, especially losing two in a row. It was nice to have a little time off to regroup and come back ready to play.”

They certainly looked ready against Dallas, with five players tallying three points and three others with two. It was like a best-of collection from the streak — the Hawks looked faster than the Stars, they controlled the puck with ease, they sustained offensive pressure, they played responsible two-way hockey, and they clogged the shooting lanes (even Kane blocked a shot). All four lines were rolling once again, and the Hawks recaptured that swagger that carried them through the streak.

“We got away from our team system a little bit [in the two losses],” said defenseman Nick Leddy, who had a goal and two assists in Dallas. “But I think we’re back on it. Let’s just keep it rolling for Colorado.”

They’ll need all of those things against the Avalanche, who are one of a handful of teams in the league that can really skate with them.

“I’m sure they’ll be ready,” Quenneville said. “They played well against us both games. Let’s do what we have to do, but be aware of what they do. They’re a good hockey team and I’m sure they’re going to be anxious and excited, knowing where they’re at and what they did last week.”

What they did last week was briefly derail the Hawks seemingly inexorable march to the top seed in the postseason, even as the Anaheim Ducks — Wednesday’s opponent — nip at their heels. But what the Avalanche also did was give the Hawks a chance to deal with a little adversity, and see how they handle defeat. And with the help of a much-needed midseason respite, so far, so good.

“We know why we’ve done well and why we’ve had success as a team this year,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “Being on a streak like we were on gives your team a lot of momentum. Just losing a couple games, to us, really didn’t matter. We know as long as we show up and we’re prepared and go out and play the right way as a team, we’ll turn things to our favor.”

NOTE: Ray Emery will start in goal for the Hawks on Monday.



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