Jeremy Colliton is not happy with the performance of his veterans — or any other Blackhawks player, for that matter.
But when it comes to their attitude, Colliton stands firmly behind his group of core veterans. He responded quickly when asked about the locker-room leadership among the players who have won three Stanley Cup championships in Chicago.
“They care a lot,” Colliton said. “They want to win.”
Yet wanting to win and actually winning are two different things. The Blackhawks entered Sunday’s game against the Flames with a minus-26 goal differential, which was tied with the Kings for the worst mark in the NHL.
Since Colliton took over for Joel Quenneville, the Blackhawks are 3-8-2. They have allowed four-plus goals in eight of 13 games.
Patrick Kane leads the group of core veterans with 13 goals and 17 assists, but he has a minus-8 rating. Jonathan Toews is second on the team with 12 goals and 10 assists.
Veteran defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have experienced their share of gaffes along with the team.
“No one’s happy with where we are,” Colliton said. “There’s a hunger within the group. Everyone’s miserable when you’re playing in this situation, so we’ve got to find a way to turn it around.
“The results are important, but it’s the performance. If the performance is better, the results will come. So that’s our focus.”
Colliton replaced three players one day after the Blackhawks’ 5-2 loss to the Predators.
Erik Gustafsson was a healthy scratch Sunday for the first time this season. Also out were John Hayden and Andreas Martinsen.
Chris Kunitz returned after a four-game stint as a healthy scratch but drew a five-minute elbowing major and a game misconduct in the second period. Alexandre Fortin returned after two games out, and Jan Rutta replaced Gustafsson on the blue line.
The Blackhawks’ recent struggles increased the coach’s willingness to mix and match different players on different nights.
“The chances of keeping the lineup the same if things are going well are higher, yes,” Colliton said. “But I wouldn’t say with each player that it’s the same. But we do need to play better. That’s it. Hopefully, we get some new energy.”
Defenseman Gustav Forsling has earned more significant playing time in the past week.
The 22-year-old played nearly half the game against the Predators as he logged a career-high 28:49 of ice time. He played nearly 24 minutes in the previous contest against the Jets, which marked a season high until the Nashville game.
“He’s a young player who I think has taken big steps in the last 12 months,” Colliton said. “We need him. We need him to continue to improve. He’s one of many. But he’s got all the tools to be a great player.”
Forsling entered Sunday with one goal and four assists in nine games. He made his season debut Nov. 14 after sitting out the first six weeks as he recovered from offseason surgery on his wrist.