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« From the "Don't See That Everyday" Department Uproar on the Lakeshore Recap: Day 1 »

Blackhawks Thu Nov 04 2010

Campbell Returns, but Bolland Takes His Place

Brian Campbell made his season debut for the Blackhawks Monday in New York, and picked up his first goal in last night's frustrating 5-3 loss to the cellar-dwelling New Jersey Devils. But Dave Bolland missed the last three games with an injury and isn't expected back for another week, while Marian Hossa has started skating and has a chance to see action this weekend. Barring any further injuries, the return of Hossa and Bolland will be the first chance for the Hawks to play with their full lineup, just in time for the six-game circus trip to the West Coast.

The Blackhawks have lost three of their last four, including an embarrassing 7-4 loss to Edmonton last Friday, along with a 3-2 trip-up in New York and last night's demoralizing defeat. However, despite the downfalls, there are some things to take away from the losses. In the four games, the Hawks averaged over 34.5 shots a game, while limiting their opponents to only 23, a return to last season's dominance. However, defensive lapses have still contributed to that lesser amount of shots equaling more goals, something Chicago will need to turn around. Likewise, despite the heavy shot totals, the absence of Hossa has opened up some holes in the Hawks offensive attack and no one has picked up the slack (unless you count Jake Dowell's recent 3-goal streak, and if you're relying on your 4th line center to lead the team, there's some problems there).

Seeing Campbell on the ice will help alleviate some of those defensive concerns once he rounds into playing shape, as Niklas Hjalmarsson will finally have a steady partner he's comfortable with. But for the Hawks blue line to truly settle in, Duncan Keith needs to start playing to his level. While Keith has been asked to do a lot in Campbell's absence, leading the league in average time-on-ice, he also currently leads the league in giveaways and his passing and positioning have been all over the place.

Up front, while the shot totals have improved, the quality of those chances hasn't. The Hawks more often than not are passing up decent shot opportunities looking for the perfect play, something they struggled with last year as well. With the amount of talent the team has, those plays will happen in time, but players are still adjusting to new linemates, new teammates, and injuries. Firing shots from the point and odd angles isn't always the answer, but a lot of times that extra pass or move leads to no shot on net at all.

Speaking of that talent, the other main problem the Blackhawks seem to have is relying on it a little too much. All four teams the Hawks recently played have been off to poor starts, are struggling with injuries, or both. While the same can be said of Chicago, the Hawks can be considered more underachieving than anything else. Which begs the question, whether it's still an assimilation factor, or more a sense of apathy on some lesser teams. The losses have been frustrating not because of the outcome, but because the Hawks have looked like they're sleepwalking through large portions of each period. Sure, there's the requisite bad bounces and broken plays, and it does seem more of them have been going against the Hawks' way of late, but it's hard to shake that there doesn't seem to be any sense of urgency until they spot the opponent one, or more, goals. It's easy to coast, until the Blackhawks realize the points they're giving away now could prove costly next spring.

The Hawks look to turn things around as they head to Atlanta, or Chicago South, Saturday to pay a visit to the Thrashers and their former teammates Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Brent Sopel and Ben Eager, as well GM Rick Dudley, a former Hawk front-office man. They'll return home Sunday looking to get revenge on the Oilers after last week's 7-4 drubbing.

 
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