Sliding Blackhawks aim to get back on track in Denver
The Chicago Blackhawks are trying to remain positive, but that has been tough to do over their longest losing streak of the season. The Colorado Avalanche are going through the same struggles, but at least the 'Hawks are still in the playoff picture.
The two clubs both look to snap five-game slides this evening in their final scheduled regular-season meeting.
Chicago has been outscored 22-10 over its losing streak, marking the first time it has lost five in a row since March 13-20, 2009. Another setback tonight would give the Blackhawks their longest skid since an 0-6-1 drought from Dec. 30-Jan. 11 during the 2007-08 season.
The 'Hawks recent struggles have dropped them into fourth place in the Central Division, two points back of third place and seven behind the first-place Red Wings. Chicago sits sixth overall in the West and captain Jonathan Toews is hoping his club can emerge from this funk with some lessons learned.
"We don't want to put more pressure on ourselves than we already have. We're staying positive, but weren't not making any excuses for ourselves, looking for ways to bail ourselves out of this situation," Toews said following Monday's practice.
"We know we have to be better and we will be. We've just got to look at it in a way that going through this tough stretch here is going to make us better in the end."
Chicago is just 5-7-3 since Jan. 2 and had lost the first three outings of a nine-game road trip. Friday's 3-1 loss in Calgary marked the fourth time over its skid that is failed to score more than two goals. The only exception was an 8-4 setback in Edmonton on Thursday.
Brent Seabrook scored the only goal on Friday and Ray Emery made 29 saves.
"I think stretches like this get your attention and as a team you learn from this," Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said after the loss. "We haven't really had a challenge like this all year and it's up to us to recapture how we felt earlier in the year and know what it takes to win."
Chicago will look to snap a seven-game road slide this evening with its first win as the guest since Dec. 14 at Minnesota. The Blackhawks picked up a 3-1 win in their first trip to Colorado back on Oct. 20, but have dropped a pair of home games to the Avalanche since. That includes a 4-0 defeat in the most recent meeting on Jan. 6, with Semyon Varlamov notching a 27-save shutout for the visitors.
Colorado has won five of its past seven versus Chicago, but hasn't scored more than two goals in any game of its current slide and sits in a tie for 11th in the conference, three points back of a playoff spot.
The Avs looked as if they would halt their losing streak on Saturday versus the visiting Canucks, holding a one-goal lead in the game's final moments and T.J. Galiardi taking aim at an empty net.
However, Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa blocked Galiardi's potential icer and then scored an overtime-forcing goal with 34.1 seconds left in the frame. Colorado went on to drop a 3-2 decision in the shootout.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 27 saves for Colorado, which had won 10 straight shootouts dating back to last season, including its first seven of this season. The Avalanche fell one shy of matching Dallas' record for consecutive shootout wins set during the 2005-06 campaign.
Despite the disappointing loss, which featured goals from David Jones and Jay McClement, rookie Gabriel Landeskog saw some positives in the setback.
"I think we played a pretty solid game to be honest," said Landeskog, who set a club rookie-record with nine shots on goal. "I think we took it to these guys for the majority of the game. Jiggy [Giguere] really kept us in there. They got one late in the third, but I thought we had a lot of the momentum in overtime too, and in the shootout, it was just unfortunate that we didn't put the puck in the net."
Colorado, which has lost the first two of a four-game homestand, hopes to have Peter Mueller back after the forward missed Saturday's game with flu-like symptoms.