Blackhawks look to finish strong before Christmas break

Blackhawks look to finish strong before Christmas break
December 22, 2013, 3:00 pm
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The Chicago Blackhawks are as excited about the Christmas break as any NHL team. It’s been a busy first half, and a three-day respite is certainly welcomed.

But before that there’s the matter of the New Jersey Devils, a team that’s won three of its last four games. So with one more game before rest, the Blackhawks want to be sure the enter the Christmas break with a bang, not a whimper.

“We want to leave it all out there,” Patrick Sharp said. “We’ve got a number of days off before and after (tomorrow’s game), so there should be no excuse for our team not playing with intensity and high energy. With those days off, you want to make sure you have a thought about how you play the last game, so we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”

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For the Blackhawks, the need for rest isn’t as pressing as it was about a week ago. They were playing at a breakneck pace from mid-November until Tuesday’s game against the Nashville Predators. Still, this break is a break that the Blackhawks will take, and they don’t want to spend it with a bad taste in their mouths.

“We talked about it. We have a real light schedule here, probably six days off over a nine-day stretch,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “So let’s max out tomorrow night’s game and make sure the focus is in the right place.”

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Andrew Shaw said that shouldn’t be a problem, given the rare rest the Blackhawks have entering tomorrow’s game.

“We had a couple days off here and a couple more coming up,” he said. “I think everyone’s excited to get this game going, play hard, play physical and them get a few days’ rest.”

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Having the right focus hasn’t been a huge problem for the Blackhawks this season. Even in their loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night, there weren’t any glaring issues. Sometimes, you just lose a game. But cleaning up a glitch here and there and getting one more victory before the break nevertheless remains on the Blackhawks wish list.

“I think the last game wasn’t the way we drew it up but we have a tough team coming in tomorrow and hopefully we can finish on a high note,” Bryan Bickell said. “We have some time with our game schedule, so we don’t want to leave anything on the ice.”