After years of dominance, opponents feel no sympathy for struggling Blackhawks

SHARE After years of dominance, opponents feel no sympathy for struggling Blackhawks
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Joel Quenneville has never won fewer than 37 games during a full season in his coaching career. (AP Photo)

Like Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, the Stars’ Ken Hitchcock is used to dominant regular seasons and perennial playoff appearances. Unlike Quenneville, Hitchcock hasn’t had much to show for it since winning the Stanley Cup with the Stars in 1999, his fourth season as a head coach.

So, no, Hitchcock doesn’t have any sympathy for Quenneville’s plight as he hurtles toward the worst full-season record of his illustrious career.

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“Empathize with Joel Quenneville?” Hitchcock said with a chuckle. “He can give me his rings all he wants. I don’t give a damn. Competition’s competition. He’s had his day in the sun, and he’s a great coach. But you can’t feel for anybody. Those are the things you do in the summer when you get together — you talk to a guy on the phone or when he’s facing personal adversity, but during competition, you’re in your own group, and you hope the other group fails like crazy.”

Quenneville has said repeatedly this season — including after Tuesday’s loss to the Flames — that nobody is going to feel sorry for the Hawks. And there’s no doubt the rest of the league is taking some joy in seeing the mighty Hawks in last place, and in serious danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season.

But the Hawks still garner respect around the league. And until they’re officially dead, Hitchcock isn’t about to bury them.

“I thought they played a great game against Calgary,” he said. “That’s hockey. That’s the way it is right now. But I think all of us, quite frankly, we live in a little bit of fear of the Hawks, because we know they’re capable of getting on a run, and that scares everybody. And that’s why for us, to put more distance between them and us is going to be a good thing.”

Quenneville is still waiting for that big run. For now, he’ll settle for one good 60-minute effort.

“I think we have some really good stretches in games [when it] looks like we could put something together,” he said. “But that inconsistency in games is probably [because] we haven’t been consistent in putting a stretch together, game in, game out [where] we know what to expect from every single line and every single pair. That’s the part that fluctuates.”

Running dry

Since their eight-goal outburst in Ottawa on Jan.  9, the Hawks have scored two or fewer goals in eight of their last 11 games. Since scoring 10 goals in the season opener and five in the second game, the Hawks have averaged just 2.7 goals per game, 21st in the league. It’s not a problem the Hawks are used to having.

“Especially the way we started,” Patrick Kane said. “It seemed like it was going to be a fun year offensively. Lately it’s been a little dry, but I think we still have it in this room to put it together and score goals. We have a lot of guys that have done it over their careers and in the past.”

Roster report

Defenseman Jan Rutta missed Thursday night’s game with an unspecified minor injury.

Goalie Corey Crawford didn’t skate Thursday, and Quenneville was non-committal when asked if it was possible Crawford could join the Hawks for the three-game road trip to Minnesota, Arizona and Las Vegas.

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@MarkLazerus.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

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