One could debate the success of the Blackhawks’ recent six-game "circus trip," but Monday there was one fact that everyone on the team could agree on: they left points on the table out West.
“If you look at the trip overall you can be satisfied,” said Patrick Sharp
of the 3-2-1 road trip, “but I don’t think our last six periods were anything special. It’s nice to get back here and put these past games behind us.”
“We had a chance to have a great road trip and we didn’t accomplish it,” said head coach Joel Quenneville. “Everybody has these little runs - positive and negative - through the season and when you lose a couple in a row, you want to correct it. There are no free points; you have to value every game. ”
Even though this was the team’s first above-.500 record on the annual Thanksgiving trip since the 1997-98 season, games like Saturday’s loss to Los Angeles are ones that the Hawks can’t afford to lose if they want to succeed.
“That [game] was the worst we’ve been all year,” said Sharp. “We can use whatever excuse we want: it was the last game of a road trip, we were on our way home – whichever one you want to use - but those were valuable points that we gave up.
“If you look at our standings now, L.A. is right behind us in the standings. It’s only December, so these games may not seem as important as they will at the end of the year. We learned our lesson last year: we have to get every point we can. We feel like we left a couple in L.A.”
With their second-longest road trip of the season behind them, Quenneville and company will look to rebound at home where they will play four of their next six games.
“The home crowd has been good to us and we think [the United Center] is a great place to play,” said Quenneville. “We want to take advantage of the excitement and enthusiasm. We’ve been away for a long time and it’ll be nice to get back.”
Huet searching for consistency
With the injury of Nikolai Khabibulin, goaltender Cristobal Huet is finally seeing more time in the crease, but is still looking for the game-to-game consistency that made him such a prized acqusition last July.
“It’s good to be part of the game,” said Huet. “But I’m not satisfied with my play because we lost those games. Still, it’s nice to be back in and I feel that I'm getting better every game.”
Huet was an unlucky loser in two of the Hawks’ last three games: once against San Jose when he relieved the injured Khabibulin and again during the 1-0 defeat in Anaheim.
Quenneville says its only a matter of time before Huet gets his next win, which can build his confidence for the rest of the season.
“A win would’ve been nice for him [in the last half of the trip],” he said. “Huet came in there and took a tough loss against San Jose. He did fine in San Jose and Anaheim, and L.A. was one of those games where the bounces go by you. You have to continue to battle and get that win and feel good.”
Huet is hopeful that he can repeat his great performance against Anaheim Wednesday night, when he will again face the Ducks.
“They’re playing very well at home and on the road,” said Huet. “We’re a good home team so I think that we can generate some more offense against them and keep playing well defensively. If we want it more than them, we can get the two points.”
Quenneville said that Khabibulin, Adam Burish and Aaron Johnson did not practice Monday. Khabibulin will most likely be the first of the three to begin skating again, possibly by Wednesday or Thursday.