Blackhawks ready for mini-break in Las Vegas

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Joel Quenneville knows anything can happen before and after the annual Las Vegas trip. (AP Photo)

VANCOUVER, British Columbia —Win or lose Saturday night, the Blackhawks were headed for Las Vegas for a night to take advantage of three days off in the middle of their 12-night circus trip. It’s become an annual team-bonding tradition under Joel Quenneville.

Last year, during the ice show trip in early February, the Hawks lost 2-0 in San Jose the night before the Vegas trip, then had arguably their worst effort of the season in a 3-0 loss at Minnesota afterward. At least this year, the Hawks will be able to hold a practice on Tuesday before facing the Sharks on Wednesday.

As for how that pre-Vegas game usually works out?

“Flip a coin,” Quenneville said with a laugh. “After Vegas? Flip a coin, too. There’s been real good ones, and real stinkers. I’ll tell you after the game.”

Challenging

Quenneville used his coach’s challenge for the first time Friday in Calgary, failing to overturn a Flames goal during which Scott Darling’s stick was knocked out of his hands. Quenneville said there are three or four “mechanisms” by which he could be notified a challenge is worthwhile, including communication with staff upstairs, talking to the goalie, and his own intuition.

Quenneville said “three or four things checked out” on Friday.

“I thought it was right on,” he said. “I’ll argue that one.”

More time off

Players have negotiated a five-day break in the schedule next season, during which teams can’t even practice for the first four days. Every team’s week off will come in either January or February. Quenneville, who holds fewer practices than just about any coach in the league, is fine with that.

“We’re pretty good over the years as far as giving guys days off, trying to stay away from the rink whenever it’s best for us,” he said. “As players, they probably welcome something like that.”

Roster report

Marko Dano returned to the lineup after missing Friday’s game with an illness. Teuvo Teravainen missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury, but should return at some point during the trip.

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