Blackhawks have fun practice, defend Coach Q

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Blackhawks have fun practice, defend Coach Q

With the 1,800-pound gorilla also known as an eight-game losing streak weighing on his team as it took the ice for a practice at Johnnys West before departing for Nashville to open the final leg of their nine-game road trip, Joel Quenneville encouraged what else? a little fun.

We tried to have a pulse thats positive, Quenneville said. Coming off two tough road trips here, the moods down, and low, and we tried to instill some positive things, some fun drills, and try to get a little life.

The Hawks ignored the too-many-men-on-the-ice rule and skated up and down, clogging every lane and zone possible to begin the session, and goals were met with whoops and hollers. Leading the way was Mr. Light-hearted (and team prankster) Patrick Sharp, who ended the 50-minute workout flicking a puck or two up to young fans in attendance.

I try to keep it light, have fun, goof around. I feel I play my best when its loose, and the team does, too, the alternate captain said.

That said, theres one of many schools of thought citing with regards to Sharp, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook as the guys who will have to lead the way out of this with so many areas springing leaks. Hossa went into the All-Star break with a nine-game point streak, but has exactly zero in the six games since.

100 percent (that its up to the stars to lead the way). We say we need everybody but we have to be the couple (of players) and lead this team, Hossa agreed. Im expecting myself to be better and help the team get a win after a long time.

In being outscored 34-15, the goals-against average now sitting at even 3 per game, the power play 1-for-21 during the skid, and the penalty kill just 17-of-24 starting with the two meetings with Nashville prior to the break, there are a multitude of areas that need improvement, and the trade market remains dormant. That has led many to believe Quennevilles job could be in jeopardy, something general manager Stan Bowman denied in a Monday interview with Comcast SportsNet.

Asked his reaction after practice, the head coach who reached 600 career regular-season wins earlier this season remained focused on whats directly in front of him and his team.

Im confident in what I do and look forward to the challenge of instilling in our group a way to win and an environment in having to get better as we go along. Coming out of this were going to need everybody to find a way to be together, and when we look back over time, hopefully we can talk about being better as a team and I can be better as a coach. Its something you dont think about as you go along as a coach, but with the situation, it can be a reality.

Theyre trying to do everything I think they should do, Hossa said. I think the coaching staffs doing a great job addressing what we have to do. We just have to do it on the ice.

Theres no doubt about Joel in our locker room, Sharp stated. Id tell you if that happened (Quenneville getting fired), thered be a lot of guys in this room upset with themselves. We know as players were the ones who put the puck in the net and need to keep it out of our net. Theres no question Joels our leader.

News and notes

Keith was given a maintenance day and was not practicing, but will face Nashville Tuesday night. Defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador (upper body injuries) were not on the ice and did not travel with the team to begin this portion of the road trip. Ray Emery will get his second-straight start in goal.

Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

The Blackhawks have talked the past several games now about how they need to play better, how they need to get back to their 60-minute game. But even when you tell yourself you have to improve the message doesn't always translate into immediate action. That's especially true if, despite so-so play, you're still managing victories or still eking out a point.

Sometimes, you need a jolt to realize you have to get better. Well, that thud the Blackhawks made in South Florida ought to get their attention. 

The Blackhawks' 7-0 loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night, that "ugly, ugly game," as coach Joel Quenneville, is the latest in what's been a mediocre stretch for the team. They've been leaning on their goaltending again (please see Minnesota, Montreal, Ottawa and Dallas games). Or they've been leaning on their ability to wake up in the third period after sleepwalking through the first two. Sixty-minute games and four-line rotations, such a big part of the Blackhawks' success through February and early March, have been absent.

Call it the Blackhawks' mid-March malaise.

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It hasn't been more painful because the Blackhawks have still found ways to get points. Or at least they did until Saturday night, when two "yapping" penalties – Quenneville's (accurate) description of Ryan Hartman and Marcus Kruger's unsportsmanlike calls – started the Blackhawks' demise against the Panthers. Players told the traveling media following the game that this was a wake-up call. It ought to be.

Granted, the Blackhawks' late-season issues aren't as bad as some of their fellow Western Conference teams. The Minnesota Wild are 3-10-1 in March. The San Jose Sharks have lost six in a row. This also isn't the first time the Blackhawks have gone through this late-season mediocrity.

Entering the 2015 postseason they struggled to score goals and lost four in a row (five goals in those four games). It turned out alright. Still, best to avoid bad habits.

Perhaps the Blackhawks are in a bit of a swoon because, really, there's not much for which to play in these final few games. They don't care if they win the Presidents' Trophy (and they probably won't). They're currently in first place by seven points following the Wild's 3-2 overtime loss to Detroit on Sunday. Whether the Blackhawks finish first or second, they'll start this postseason at home. 

So is this panic-inducing? No. Is it a concern? Certainly. The Blackhawks can't start thinking they'll automatically flip the switch as soon as the postseason begins.

The Blackhawks want to get their four-line rotation going again. Artem Anisimov returning in the next week or two will certainly help that. They want to get their overall game going again. The Blackhawks have been telling themselves what needs to be done for a few games now. Maybe they needed a wake-up call. On Saturday, they got it. 

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks give up season-high seven goals

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks give up season-high seven goals

Here are some of Saturday's top stories in Chicago sports:

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White Sox: Carlos Rodon feels reassured after clean MRI

Marian Hossa named Blackhawks' nominee for 2017 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

Brett Anderson’s personality mixing well with Cubs: ‘I don’t hate anybody yet’

Former Bulls center Joakim Noah suspended 20 games for violating NBA's anti-drug policy

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Joe Maddon breaks down the Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella decision for Cubs

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