Red Wings rivalry is least of Blackhawks’ concerns

Written By BY BRIAN SANDALOW For Sun-Times Media Posted: 04/17/2014, 06:50am

There were only the obligatory mentions Saturday of the Blackhawks’ rivalry with the Detroit Red Wings. When asked about it, the Hawks gave the predictable answers about Sunday’s opponent but didn’t seem too concerned that the game is the only one between the two this season in Chicago.

Heading into this matchup, the Hawks have other things to worry about.

After a 3-2 loss to the last-place Nashville Predators on Friday, they have dropped two straight and five of eight. The division-leading St. Louis Blues are getting further and further away, and it looks like the Hawks will be jousting with the Colorado Avalanche for second place in the division and home ice in the first round of the playoffs.

Obviously, the Hawks aren’t pleased with how they’ve gotten to this point, especially after dropping games to the Avalanche and Predators. Those were games coach Joel Quenneville said were winnable, but they ‘‘didn’t challenge pucks’’ and ‘‘weren’t hard in the puck area, and we were easy to play against.’’

‘‘We didn’t play the right way to give us a chance to win,’’ he said.

Part of that would mean more urgency. Against the Predators, the Hawks fell down 2-0 and 3-1 and couldn’t rally past a team that likely will miss the playoffs.

They know that can’t continue.

‘‘We’ve got to find urgency in our game right from the first puck drop,’’ winger Kris Versteeg said. ‘‘I know we find it at times, and that’s when we can really take over a game and play the way we want to, but we’ve got to find ways to do it throughout an entire game, like we did with Columbus.’’

During that 6-1 win against the Blue Jackets on March 6, the Hawks were in control from the start. But nights like that and the 5-1 Stadium Series victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins have been too rare for the Hawks.

They’re looking to find answers and start applying them. Maybe it’s a post-Olympics hangover or just fatigue, but Patrick Sharp wasn’t having any of that.

‘‘I think those are excuses,’’ Sharp said. ‘‘I think it’s easy to point the finger at those things, but the mistakes that we’re making aren’t from a lack of energy or fatigue.’’

One big answer could be Marian Hossa’s return after missing five games with an upper-body injury. Before the injury, Hossa was having one of his best seasons with the Hawks, scoring 24 goals to go with 26 assists and a plus-25 rating.

Hossa, as good as he is and as much as he adds on both ends of the ice, is only one player. His return certainly will help every facet of the Hawks’ game, but he won’t single-handedly cure their issues.

‘‘He’s a great player. It’s always nice when you have a full lineup,’’ Sharp said. ‘‘Whether he plays or not [Sunday] shouldn’t change the way the rest of us approach the game, but obviously adding a guy like Hoss will help our team a lot.’’

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