SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Joel Quenneville probably wouldn’t be a hockey coach if the thought didn’t cross his mind. After two terrible losses last weekend, 5-2 to Calgary and 9-2 to Edmonton, Quenneville considered an alteration to the Chicago Blackhawks’ schedule which included two off-days in Las Vegas on Sunday and Monday.
“It was all probably visited but let’s move forward,” Quenneville said of canceling the trip or adding a practice to it. “Under the circumstances it was probably the worst time you’d ever want to walk into Vegas.”
More like limp into Vegas.
The Hawks were scorched defensively in back-to-back contests against teams they had just beaten the week before, giving up a total of four goals in the two wins.
Those games were long forgotten as the Hawks boarded their charter late Saturday for Las Vegas.
“It was a nice trip,” Patrick Kane said after practice Tuesday. “It’s one of the perks of being a Blackhawk. I don’t think any other team has done that before and here we are in the middle of the season having to do stuff like that. It’s definitely a perk of being here.”
For the record, the Hawks went to Las Vegas at the same time last year, after a 7-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
“It was definitely a quiet flight,” Marian Hossa said regarding this year’s ride to Vegas. “The year before it was a little bit different. We won 7-1 against Vancouver and we lost this one. It was definitely quiet, but we had two days off and everyone kind of [thought] what they have to do to be better.”
With Quenneville thinking of taking away their trip or even practicing in Las Vegas, what was going through the players' minds as the goals were piling up for the Oilers Saturday? Patrick Kane was asked if a canceled trip crossed his mind.
“Maybe at one point,” he said. “Anytime you’re on the ice playing the game you’re not thinking of those things, you’re thinking of playing hockey. When it gets out of hand like that maybe it runs through your head. But the Hawks have never really taken anything away from us. They give us the benefit of the doubt most of the time. So it’s time for us to have a good performance [Wednesday].”
Kane is right about one thing. The Hawks, under Quenneville, usually stick to the schedule no matter what ancillary issues are involved. So maybe the players might want to reward their coach for not canceling the trip.
“You can look at a million different ways,” Quenneville said. “What are they going to be responding to? It’s easy to know what they need to respond to, the way I look at it.”
He’s talking about being outscored 14-4 and embarrassed on defense.
“That’s an area we’re not happy with and penalty killing was part of it last game,” Quenneville said. “We don’t like the kind of goals we’re giving up. I don’t care who is on the ice. That’s an area we have to shore up and take some responsibility that it can’t keep happening. I’ve said that more than once.”
Ironically, that probably proves the losses over the weekend weren’t related to any distraction associated with their mini-vacation. The Hawks' problems are the same ones they’ve had in many of their defeats, without any trips to Las Vegas looming. The Hawks are simply not covering the area around their net or in the slot very well.
“Particularly our defense has to get better around that area,” Quenneville said.
He means his six blue-liners not necessarily team defense. Duncan Keith was minus-8 in the two games over the weekend, Steve Montador minus-6. With Brent Seabrook’s potential return Wednesday, the Hawks should be better but injuries can’t be an excuse.
“We have a lot of desire and will to get back to where we were,” Kane said. “It’s probably not going to happen overnight but we’ll just keep getting better as a team and make sure those games don’t happen anymore.”
And if you believe Viktor Stalberg, the bad loss on Saturday to the Oilers had an effect on more than just the plane ride to Sin City.
“Guys were really upset about that loss and the way we lost,” he said. “We went into Vegas knowing that and I don’t think it was as crazy as it could have been so guys respected that loss and respect that we want to get back to work and get points on this road trip.”
Seabrook was back paired with Keith on Tuesday and participated in all drills except for the beginning of the two-on-two battles as he works his way back from a left leg injury. He’s questionable for Wednesday’s game against San Jose.
The lines remained the same as they were for last game with Michael Frolik running drills as the extra forward. Ben Smith lined up with Dave Bolland and Bryan Bickell while Jonathan Toews centered Stalberg and Hossa. Kane was between Patrick Sharp and Dan Carcillo and Marcus Kruger centered Jamal Mayers and Andrew Brunette. Frolik is alos questionable for Wednesday’s game.
“We had time to think and re-charge and get our working boots back on.” -- Hossa, on the team’s two day break in Las Vegas.