After snapping their five-game winless streak with a 4-1 win over Los Angeles Sunday, the mood in the Blackhawks’ locker room has changed decidedly compared to the past two weeks.
“Everyone’s just a little bit happier, and there are a lot more smiles and laughs around the locker room,” Patrick Kane
said. “That’s a good thing; you want to have fun when you’re playing hockey.”
“It would be depressing for any team to work hard and fall short for a bunch of nights like we did,” added Jonathan Toews
. “But I think we kept up the positive morale; guys were always upbeat and we had good practices. But now, it feels good to get that team confidence back and get a win under your belt.”
Don’t mistake the Blackhawks' confidence for cockiness, however. Head coach Joel Quenneville stressed aggressiveness and strong fundamentals to his team during Tuesday’s practice. To continue the success they had on Sunday, the Hawks will have to go into every game with top-level toughness and maximum effort.
“We’ve only won one game in a row,” Quenneville said. “We measure ourselves by what we give up, and we didn’t give up much against L.A. But I still think that checking mentality needs to be added to our game; limiting the team’s scoring chances would be a good objective to have because that usually leads to wins.”
The Hawks’ renewed positive energy will be needed starting tomorrow night, when the Western Conference-leading San Jose Sharks visit the United Center. In fact, the Blackhawks play only one game the rest of the season against a team not currently in their conference’s top eight teams (St. Louis).
“We just got through a tough stretch of games where we didn’t play as well as we would have liked, and it’s not going to get any easier,” said Patrick Sharp
. “As far as we’re concerned, we’re raising our game to playoff-level hockey every night. We have to keep getting better throughout the regular season and play our best towards the end.”
“This stretch is big considering the position we put ourselves in,” Toews said. “It’s close all across the board and everybody is trying to play their best hockey. This is preparation for the postseason. We’re trying to work towards becoming the team we’ve wanted to be all year ”
Eager Okay with Suspension
“It’s tough sitting out, especially this time of the year," Ben Eager said about the three-game suspension he's currently serving, "but I think it's fair and I’ll deal with it.”
Quenneville mentioned post-game Sunday that he thought Eager’s suspension came largely as a result of the league’s recent decision to crack down on hits to the head. Eager was suspended for a blow to the head of Liam Reddox during last week’s game against Edmonton.
“They’re trying to cut down on the head shots and I understand,” Eager said. “Personally, I probably would have been upset if I would have been hit like that. I’ll learn from it and move on.”
Quenneville said that defenseman Matt Walker will not skate Wednesday vs. San Jose, but Cam Barker “could play” against the Sharks. Neither skated Tuesday at practice.
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