Myers: From here on, every game counts

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Myers: From here on, every game counts

Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011
4:21 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

Ah, home sweet home. For the Chicago Blackhawks so far this season, its been anything but. Whether theyve gotten into startstop mode too often, gotten too pretty or just havent shown up at all, the Madhouse has been maddening.

Well, now theyre going into enemy territory for a while. A long while, it seems. The Blackhawks will play 19 of their next 31 on the road, including this five-game trip that takes them through Western Canada and the southwest U.S. If the Blackhawks are going to be successful on it, they are going to have to get back to that simple, hard-hat hockey that fared so well for them on their Circus Trip back in November.

And theyre going to have to live by their own mantra: from here on out, every game truly does count.

We went into the break disappointed, so lets channel our energy in a proper way, coach Joel Quenneville said prior to the Blackhawks 7-4 victory over Columbus on Tuesday. You want to make sure guys are focused and youre ready to start.

The Blackhawks victory over the Blue Jackets exemplifies what these final 31 are probably going to be like: tough, sometimes mucky, fights to the end. Shaking off All-Star break rust and overcoming two deficits, the Blackhawks gritted one out. It came with no style points.

None of the remaining games should have style points. The Blackhawks just need to play hard, 60-minute games.

They need Patrick Kane to get his scoring going again. Same for Marian Hossa. They need Patrick Sharp to keep doing what hes been doing. Same for Jonathan Toews. They need both their goaltenders, Marty Turco and Corey Crawford, playing every night like theyre trying to grab the No. 1 job away from the other. They need their defense to be as sound as it was last season.

As Quenneville said, lets make sure theres a purpose. We all want to max out no matter what the situation.

Entering Thursday nights games, the Blackhawks were eighth in the Western Conference with 58 points. Four through seven are Nashville (61), San Jose (60), Anaheim (60) and Phoenix (59). Can they leap into fourth place with a couple of victories? Sure. Can they fall just as fast with some bad games? Absolutely.

The Blackhawks have been inconsistent this year. Ill argue the entire conference has been, save Vancouver and Detroit. You dont get a logjam like the one were seeing because everyones running on all cylinders.

For as much as the Blackhawks have squandered, they still have more than enough opportunities to climb back near the top. Theyve got to put their hard hats on again. Theyve got to play 60-minute games every night. And theyve got to embrace the road-game mentality every minute, every second.

The road beckons once more. The Blackhawks have some time to bond, regroup and recognize the task at hand. They can get there with simple, hard-played hockey.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

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.