After much-needed break, Blackhawks better be ready

After much-needed break, Blackhawks better be ready
January 25, 2012, 6:32 am
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The Blackhawks will go their separate ways for the next few days. Some will stick around town. Some will head to their hometowns. Some will head to warmer locales.

But one thing is certain: they all have to come back focused and ready to go for the final stretch run. And they have to come back ready to do it in some unfriendly places.

The Blackhawks didnt go into the break the way they wouldve liked, suffering two straight losses to the division-rival Nashville Predators. But thats in the past. With 32 games remaining, the Blackhawks need to shore up some inconsistencies and stake their claim to one of the Western Conferences top spots.

Weve got to get away a little bit. But this is all about getting rest and making sure were ready to go the last 32 games, Duncan Keith said. I think thats what everybody needs to use this break for is to rest up, get strong and make sure were taking care of ourselves and feeling good when we come back.

Theyll need to be, because the schedule out of the break is a daunting one. The Blackhawks face a mammoth nine-game road trip beginning with Northwest front-runner Vancouver on Jan. 31. Other opponents include the division rival Predators against whom the Blackhawks are now 1-2-0 this season the Easts best New York Rangers and Pacific leader San Jose.

Its not a fun schedule. Yes, the Blackhawks will get home twice to break up the three-week trek across the country. But between the travel and the opponents, its going to be a taxing three weeks nonetheless.

Its going to be a lot tougher going on the road now, going out west. Its not going to be easy, Dave Bolland said. The breaks going to be good for us to recharge and get our batteries back.

Itll also be good if they can get two of their best players back. Jonathan Toews (left armhand) and Patrick Sharp (wrist) will be on the Blackhawks trip to Vancouver at the end of January. They could play in that game, or soon after. Having this week off gives both a chance to get a little healthier.

Crunch time is just about here. The Blackhawks have a few days to get away from the daily grind, rest and heal. Come Monday, theyre back in the Western Conference fight.