Pressing Blackhawks searching for answers

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Pressing Blackhawks searching for answers

SAN JOSE The Blackhawks had their version of a tutorial before they departed Colorado on Wednesday, a class session, so to speak, regarding their recent woes.

We were in an educational facility (the University of Denver), we had the perfect theater for a nice session, and we did (have one), longer than we generally do, coach Joel Quenneville said. We talked about details, positioning, more so on the defensive side of things. Thats an emphasis weve gone through, and probably let it slide when we werent preventing goals.

Talking, scheming, practicing, the Blackhawks are doing everything they can to shore things up. But it ultimately comes down to the game, and thats where the Blackhawks have to start bringing it, beginning Friday night against the San Jose Sharks.

The Blackhawks are struggling to find answers, their team defense and the right line combinations yep, they were altered again on Thursday during this six-game winless streak. And theyre feeling the weight of the skid. Defenseman Brent Seabrook said it hurts when you lose this many in a row. It sucks coming to the rink.

I think theres all of that: disappointment, frustration. Everyones concerned with whats going on, Patrick Sharp said. We talked about it the past couple of days, and were going to be a better team for it. Now is not the time to go against each other and point fingers. The only way we can win and get better is by playing as a team.

But when a group is lacking confidence, as the Blackhawks are right now, thats easier said than done. Just like a slumping player who talks of squeezing the stick, the Blackhawks are pressing. And they know thats not going to help right now.

Its tough not to think about it, especially when youre on a skid like this, Patrick Kane said. If we can put everything behind us and worry about one game at a time, then going from there I think its going to help us out and well probably get out of this funk sooner rather than later.

The Blackhawks need results sooner rather than later. This road trip goes from tough to brutal, with the Sharks, Coyotes, Predators and Rangers still ahead. Theyre talking, scheming and practicing. Now it needs to come through in their playing.

Im sure there is (panic). Were doing a lot of different things to work at it. Its challenging to get ourselves out of it, Kane said. Im sure everyone has their two cents to put in. But its the coaches and our job to get out of it.

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

Jonathan Toews sounded somewhat frustrated but cognizant of the situation.

If it were the postseason there’s no doubt he would be playing right now. That’s not a surprise to hear, considering what hockey players put themselves through when the playoffs start. But this is early December. There are too many games remaining. And with it coming down to making sure he’s healthy for the long haul, it’s an easy call.

Toews practiced on Friday for the first time since being hurt, but he won’t travel to Philadelphia when the Blackhawks face the Flyers on Saturday afternoon. It will be the fifth consecutive game Toews has missed since he was hurt against the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 23. Still, him skating on his own and then practicing with teammates for a few minutes is a good sign that Toews is closing in on a return.

“Just come back and check in again [Saturday], see how it is and hopefully, I guess as they say, re-evaluate for Sunday,” Toews said on Friday. “It’s never fun to miss any time, especially when the team is playing as many games as they are. So nice to get back out there and move around and get going a little bit.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Toews was placed on injured reserve on Friday, retroactive to Nov. 24, the day after he was injured.  Coach Joel Quenneville said he’ll see how Toews feels on Saturday and, “we’ll get a better idea going forward. But he’s not on the trip.”

“You gotta be fully recovered and want to make sure guys are 100 percent before they can play,” Quenneville said. “Jonny plays at a certain pace and it’s all out, so let’s make sure he’s more than ready when he’s coming back.”

Several have reported that Toews has a back injury, and the captain was doing several back stretches during Friday’s session. Toews left in the second period of the Blackhawks’ 2-1 loss to the Sharks, moments after he went down awkwardly. But Toews said he wasn’t hurt on that play. 

“I think it was just something that started to aggravate in the first period. I tried playing in the second and that instance right there, just went down like a ton of bricks,” Toews said. “I was trying not to aggravate the injury more than I already had. That wasn’t where I got hurt; [it was] probably the instance people were looking for to see what the explanation was.”

If this were April and the playoffs were about to begin, Toews probably wouldn’t be as patient with his injury. But it isn’t, and he will be. It’s not worth making worse. The Blackhawks have managed to get points in his absence, going 3-0-1 so far.

“It’s the type of thing most guys would be able to suck up and play if it were a playoff game and putting everything on the line. But at this point, with the amount of games left in the season, it’s not something you want to continuously deal with,” he said. “If you aggravate it, it’ll keep coming back to haunt you. It’s tough to hold back and do less than you know you can, but in the long run, trying to make sure I get back to 100 percent.”

BRIEFLY

- Trevor van Riemsdyk was activated off the injured-reserve list and is expected to play against the Flyers.

- Marian Hossa took practice off. He is expected to play.

-  Corey Crawford will start vs. Philadelphia.

Blackhawks Road Ahead: Feasting on the East

Blackhawks Road Ahead: Feasting on the East

Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd and Jamal Mayers have the latest on Joel Quenneville's group in this edition of the Blackhawks Road Ahead, sponsored by Chicagoland NW Indiana Honda dealers.

The Blackhawks are once again taking care of business, going 3-0-1 with their captain Jonathan Toews on the sideline. They're also 6-2-2 against the East this year, and they'll get another chance to add to that record when they take on the Flyers this week.

Here's what our Blackhawks Postgame Live crew had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Aehad.