The free-falling Chicago Blackhawks will try to end their longest losing streak in over four years when they continue a lengthy road trip with tonight's battle against the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion.
The Blackhawks are 0-5-1 over their last six games, marking the club's longest skid since an 0-6-2 stretch from Dec. 30-Jan. 11 during the 2007-08 season. The last four losses (0-3-1) have come at the start of a nine-game swing.
The recent swoon has dropped the 2010 Stanley Cup champions into the sixth seed in the Western Conference, where it's three points ahead of Los Angeles and four points behind Nashville. Chicago is now also fourth in the Central Division and nine points behind Detroit for first place.
The Blackhawks have allowed a total of 16 goals over their last three losses and are coming off Tuesday's 5-2 setback in Colorado. The score was tied at 2-2 heading into the third period, but Gabriel Landeskog put the Avalanche up for good with his tally just 38 seconds into the final stanza.
"Every mistake we make is being capitalized on," said Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith. "We have to get in a better position to turn things around. Everything we seem to do seems to be harder. We have to start outworking the other teams."
Chicago is just 10-12-3 as the road club this year and has lost eight straight (0-6-2) away from the Windy City. Joel Quenneville's team hasn't posted a road victory since Dec. 14 in Minnesota.
Blackhawks defenseman Steve Montador suffered an upper-body injury in Tuesday's loss and was forced to leave the game in the second period. He is questionable for tonight.
Although they're not as cold as the Blackhawks, the Sharks haven't exactly been playing their best hockey of late either. San Jose has surrendered nine goals in losing its last two games and is 3-4-1 over its last eight trips to the ice. Despite the inconsistent play, the Sharks are still leading the Pacific Division with 64 points, two more than Los Angeles.
After losing last Saturday in Phoenix by a 5-3 score, the Sharks returned home and dropped Wednesday's close regulation decision against Calgary. Olli Jokinen capped his hat trick for the Flames with the game-winner just 3:25 into the third period, lifting Calgary to a 4-3 victory. Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff also stopped 34 shots to register the 300th win of his career.
"It's a missed opportunity," Thornton said. "We'd like to say we played good at times, it just wasn't a full 60 [minutes]."
Tonight's game represents San Jose's final home test before embarking on a season-long nine-game road trip. The Sharks are 17-9-2 as the host this year compared to a 12-7-4 mark on the road. After tonight. San Jose's next home game isn't until Feb. 28 against Philadelphia.
This evening's tilt marks the fourth and final scheduled meeting between the Blackhawks and Sharks this year. San Jose posted a 1-0 home win on Nov. 23 before Chicago posted two straight wins over the Sharks in the Windy City. The Blackhawks have taken three of four overall in this series, but San Jose has won the last three encounters at the Shark Tank.