Avoiding long losing streaks has been a strength for Hawks
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Their losing streak has reached three games, which is the most the Blackhawks have gone without a win this season.
Judging by recent history, it probably won’t last much longer — despite Marian Hossa’s upper-body injury preventing him from traveling for the start of a three-game road trip Thursday in Nashville.
The Hawks just don’t string losses together in large quantities, and haven’t since dropping nine straight games from Jan. 21 to Feb. 14 in 2012.
“It’s just the leadership we have in the locker room,” defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk said after practice Wednesday. “When those streaks happen, you start pressing and maybe getting away from things just because you’re trying so hard to get the results you want, rather than just playing the game that made you successful. It’s just important that when things aren’t going right, you don’t want to start pressing.”
It’s a lesson van Riemsdyk and other young Hawks have absorbed from veterans who went through that 0-8-1 stretch in 2012. That skid was viewed at the time as something that could alter the team’s future, especially if it led to a coaching change.
Instead, Joel Quenneville stayed put and the Hawks’ course changed in a different way. They became stronger, more confident in tough spots, and bounced back in 2013 to win the Stanley Cup.
They’ve since gone through four-game losing streaks once in each of the last three years, but quickly extinguished the flames. That included a four-game skid going into the 2015 playoffs that culminated in the Hawks’ most recent championship.
“Every game and every season teaches you something,” said Corey Crawford, who will start his third straight game Thursday in Nashville since recovering from an appendectomy. “Experience means a lot. You need those bad times to get better and learn from. You have to be able to learn from it, know what went wrong and how you can fix it. This team has been through a lot of those situations, good and bad, that have made us better.”
One of the best examples was that nine-game nightmare in 2012. Crawford made 22 saves the night it ended with the Hawks’ 4-2 win against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Those who were around for that streak don’t enjoy looking back, including Quenneville, but there’s no denying that stretch has played a role in the Hawks averting another major collapse since.
“Certainly, it was tough,” Quenneville said. “That was a tough stretch. I don’t like thinking those thoughts. We’re always looking at things on the positive side of things (now), and we’re looking at the next game and what we can do to be successful in that game and deal with what we’re dealing with.”
Hossa has missed two games, didn’t practice and remains on injured reserve. Quenneville left open the possibility of Hossa returning Monday in the Winter Classic against the Blues at Busch Stadium.
“We’ll see how he does,” Quenneville said. “Hopefully he can play outdoors.”
Quenneville is looking to work defensemen Michal Kempny and Michal Rozsival back into the playing group. Kempny has been a healthy scratch the past five games and in nine of the past 10. Rozsival has been scratched the past seven games and in 10 of the past 12.
“I think we’ll probably get them in real soon,” Quenneville said. “Eight defensemen, that’s where we’re at. It’s probably longer than we’d have liked to have them sitting out, both of them, but I think we’ll get them in there real quick.”
Kempny and Rozsival work as defense partners in practice, but it’s unclear whether they will return in the same game or separately.