It was a schedule that looked daunting at the start: a ton of games away from home, a lot of contests in unfriendly buildings.
For the Blackhawks, however, it ended up being a boon. Whether it was because the road trips gave them a chance to bond immediately after the lockout or whether it forced the Blakhawks to play simple hockey, it worked.
And now, the Blackhawks will look to apply the latter, at least, as they hit the road again.
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The Blackhawks take their final multi-contest road trip of the season, a four-game trek that will start with the pesky Blue Jackets in Columbus on Thursday. Granted, the Blackhawks have been successful no matter where they’ve played this season. But hitting the road again, where they generated so much on the early part of their long unbeaten streak, should be a good thing.
And they’ll be rested. It took until March for the Blackhawks to get a three-day break between games after playing 26 of them from Jan. 19 to March 10. They took two days off from practice, so the affects of that should be seen even when they return to practice on Wednesday.
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Once again, they’ll face some tough foes on the road. Here’s a breakdown of the Blackhawks’ next four opponents, and the team’s record against each this season:
Columbus Blue Jackets (3-0): No, these are not your older brother’s Blue Jackets. Columbus still doesn’t have a roster that leaps off the page, but the Jackets have been playing well lately. They had a five-game winning streak before Vancouver beat them in a shootout on Tuesday. Not that the Blackhawks need reminding of Columbus’ improvement. They won all three previous games, but they’ve all bee one-goal contests. That’s a far cry from the last few seasons, when the Blackhawks beat the Blue Jackets soundly on a regular basis and Viktor Stalberg made them his personal target practice.
Dallas Stars (1-0): The Stars have gone through their injuries lately. But guess who’s healthy: goaltender Kari Lehtonen. The netminder gave the Blackhawks fits for two-plus periods in their first matchup this season before the Blackhawks broke through in regulation and in overtime. If the Blackhawks have struggled against the Stars, this guy’s been in net. And if Lehtonen’s the guy on Saturday, strap yourself in for another close game.
Colorado Avalanche (1-1): Ah, yes, those Avs. That team that not only ended the Blackhawks’ winning streak, they ended it with a thud. The Blackhawks got a slim victory over Colorado here but got slammed in Denver. The Avalanche always play the Blackhawks tough, going back a few seasons now. A young team with speed… oh, we don’t have t remind you what can happen, do we?
Anaheim Ducks (0-0-1): If it weren’t for the Blackhawks going on a 24-game undefeated streak to start the season, the Ducks would probably have gotten more attention for their start. They should still be getting a good deal of fanfare. Perhaps the Ducks knew what they had this season but, otherwise, this is a surprise. The Ducks have just one more loss than the Blackhawks and have two games in hand. Their first game at the United Center, the Blackhawks had them beat before the Ducks scored a late regulation goal en route to a shootout victory. Expect the same type of game in Anaheim at the end of the Blackhawks’ road trip.
The Blackhawks face a tough road ahead. Literally. But they’ve been here before, facing tough foes, the Stanley Cup champs on their banner-revealing day and the team that ousted them in the playoffs last season. All road trips are tests. This is just one more.