No easy answers for slumping Blackhawks

2014-01-27T14:10:00Z 2014-01-30T22:04:17Z No easy answers for slumping BlackhawksDavid Keck david.keck@NWI.com; (219) 933-3367 nwitimes.com
January 27, 2014 2:10 pm  • 

Welcome to a special Winter Olympics edition of Blackhawks notes, where we'll take a trip down The Games memory lane to recall that oft-quoted shriek by Nancy Kerrigan after she took a whack on the knee before the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in 1994.

"Why me!"

Not that a Hawks player screamed that after the loss to Winnipeg, which came into Sunday's game at the United Center in last place of the Central Division, trailing Chicago by 23 points. The Hawks had already beaten the Jets three times this season, outscoring them 15-5 over those contests, so losing to them would be like a conversation between Keith Richards and Ozzy Osborne: Totally incomprehensible.

But "why" was the first word out of the media's mouths afterward, as in "why after recent wins over NHL points toppers Anaheim and Atlantic Division leaders Boston did you lose to three struggling teams like Detroit, Minnesota and Winnipeg?"

The collective Hawks answer? "We don't know."

"It's a little disappointing," winger Kris Versteeg said. "They got some lucky breaks."

Credit Winnipeg goalie Al Montoya for a lot of them. The first Cuban-American to play in the NHL, Montoya did his best pretzel impressions filling in for Ondrej Pavelec, giving up one goal in the opening two minutes to Brandon Bollig and making 34 saves in the Jets' 3-1 win.

And wouldn't you know it, Montoya grew up in the north suburban Glenview.

Why, indeed.

Cold outside, cold inside: The Hawks went 28-7-7 through first 42 games of season topped off by a 1-0 win against Los Angeles on Dec. 30. The Hawks have posted a 4-8 record since, with five losses in overtime.

Hot out West: The Hawks take to the road for six games before the Olympics break. Their last road trip packing in that many games was from Nov. 19 through Nov. 30. The Hawks went 6-1 with its only loss to Colorado. Thrown into the mix were teams at the bottom rungs of their division standings like the Oilers, Flames, Stars and Coyotes.

This six-game road stretch should be tougher. Anaheim, San Jose, Los Angeles and Vancouver are 1-2-3-4 in the Pacific Division. The trip opens tonight against the Flames.

"It's a tough trip," coach Joel Quenneville said. "It's definitely going to be some tough buildings. Let's be angry about (the loss to Winnipeg) tonight."

Looking Sharp out there: Quenneville complimented the play of Hawks right winger Patrick Sharp before Sunday's game, saying this season is "the most consistent I've ever seen him."

Sharp put in extra work last summer and entered the season with a good attitude and commitment, Quenneville said. Sharp leads the team with 26 goals and is second to Patrick Kane's in points with 52, good enough for 11th in the league on Monday. His best season was 2010-11 with 71 points.

Winnipeg snapped a three-game scoring streak for Sharp.

More on commitment: Quenneville scratched winger Bryan Bickell from the game against Winnipeg with little explanation afterward. Said Quenneville: "We want more. We need more. We expect more." 

On Monday, the Hawks recalled forward Brandon Pirri from Rockford. 

Singing is optional: Friday is the 27th birthday of Hawks tough guy Bollig. Feel free to smash a cake in his honor.  

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