Coach Joel Quenneville is cognizant of how the bye week has effected some teams that have already taken it. He and the Blackhawks got a glimpse of that last Saturday when they soundly beat the Edmonton Oilers, who had just come off theirs.
As Quenneville said, “I think teams are having a little bit of a hiccup coming out of it.”
So how do you avoid that hiccup?
“Don’t know that,” Quenneville said. “I think we’ve been pretty good being fresh coming out of days off but we’ve never had this kind of break.”
The Blackhawks can take a lesson from last weekend’s visit to Edmonton heading into Saturday night, when they host the Oilers. Not only do you need that jump off to start, you need to sustain it. The Oilers got the early 1-0 advantage but the Blackhawks took over after that.
“It’s always tough to try and find your legs right away,” Ryan Hartman said. “The key is to worry about that first period, put yourself in good position to finish off strong and it’s always nice when you start at home after a break have the fans behind you. We’re looking forward to tomorrow.”
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
Duncan Keith said it’s not just about the physical preparation out of the break, either.
“[The Oilers] will be ready, and it comes down to being a little more mentally prepared than normal. You try to find a way to get yourself into it right away,” Keith said. “We just have to make sure we’re taking short shifts and keeping as high a pace as we can.”
Brian Campbell said the start isn’t important solely for this game but also for the Blackhawks’ latest series of games. The Blackhawks have three games in four nights and are still chasing the Minnesota Wild, who they face on Tuesday. The Wild caught up to the Blackhawks in games this past week but also now have a seven-point lead over them.
“Obviously you don’t want to look too far ahead but Minnesota is one of those games to the end there. That’s another huge game for us so we have to keep finding ways to put points in the bank here,” Campbell said. “Last game against Edmonton, they came off their break, I don’t know if they were at their best but it’s going to be reversed. We want to try and catch Minnesota.”
The Blackhawks enjoyed the break but were glad to be back to practice on Friday. They’re used to stretch-run hockey but they’re not used to hitting it coming off a break like this. They went into the bye with a flourish. They’d like to come out of it the same way.
“Our guys are pretty good about coming ready to play and I certainly liked how we went into the break, knowing that was a question mark, how we’re going to be and that you’re going to be out for a little bit. And I thought we played extremely well in Edmonton there,” Quenneville said. “But they weren’t their best when they came out of it. Hopefully we got a little bit of a lesson from that, knowing that they’re going to be much better tomorrow.”