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Blackhawks Thu Jan 14 2010

What, me worry?

So the Blackhawks had their first two-game losing streak since November last weekend, after rolling to 5 straight victories, giving up a 4-goal lead in Minnesota to lose 6-5 in a shootout, then running into a hot goalie and successful trap for a rare 3-1 home loss to Anaheim. Add in the fact that Marian Hossa was a late scratch in Sunday's Ducks game and Cam Barker has missed the last 4 contests, and for some fans, that first piece of sky is starting to fall on what's been a record-breaking season.

But are things truly that bad? Sure, giving up 4 goals in the last 14 minutes to the Wild can be a gut-check moment, as shown by Minnesota reeling off victories in their next two games over top teams. But while the Hawks lost to a struggling Anaheim the next night, they fired 43 shots on Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller, but few of high-quality, and only gave up a team-record 12. This evokes a similar trend of high shots/low goals in November before the team's torrid December stretch, but the Hawks were still finding ways to win many of those contests. Chicago ended a streak of 15 games in 26 days with the losses, going 11-3-1 during that time, a tough stretch of games due to the Olympic schedule. All teams struggle at times in the stretch of an 82-game season, but this bump is not cause for concern - yet.

Tonight, following a 3-day welcome break, they welcome the Columbus Bluejackets, who are 14th in the Western Conference despite winning 4 of 6 in January. The Hawks have yet to lose 3 straight games this season, and Hossa will be back on the ice tonight, though Barker is still out. The game provides a chance for the Hawks to right their footing at home, before heading out on a difficult 8-game road trip, starting with a 2nd game against Columbus Saturday, along with trips to Detroit, Calgary, Vancouver and league-leading San Jose (shades again of November, where the Hawks beat the then top Sharks 7-2). While a two game losing streak doesn't matter much in the context of a full season, the Western trip will find the Hawks matching up with a number of potential playoff opponents in the heat of the conference race. And with the top seed and home-ice a reachable goal for a Blackhawks squad that's gone 20-5-1 at the United Center this season, a successful swing could provide the Hawks with more than bragging rights come spring.

Along with Hossa's quick return, the Hawks also received good news this week as injured forwards Dave Bolland and Adam Burish both began skating. While neither is epected back for another month (Bolland) or two (Burish), their return will provide even more depth on offense and a pair of fresh legs in a final stretch for the playoffs.

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