Quenneville uses practice to ignite Hawks

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville only kept his players out on the ice for 30 minutes of practice Saturday, but he accomplished exactly what he wanted to after questioning their recent play.

Quenneville reiterated the effort he’s been seeking from his players by putting them in 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 battle drills for the latter part of practice at Johnny’s IceHouse West. The drill is set up by creating a small area in the corner of the rink and players compete for loose pucks and attempt to score on a guarded net which faces the end boards.

The drill requires players to work to get the puck and then either keep it or steal it. The players’ competitiveness usually takes over during the drill, and Quenneville is able to get the desired result.

After disappointing efforts in a 3-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday and a 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on Friday, Quenneville used the battle drills to address his issues with the team.

“We did a drill today that’s kind of the way you have to win hockey games,” Quenneville said. “Come up in the tough areas, and you got to get to the tough areas. You got to win some 1-on-1 battles. If you’re looking for the perimeter and looking for a non-confrontational type of game, the other team will accommodate that and you’re going to be on the outside the whole game.”

Quenneville thought the Blackhawks could have defeated the Avalanche and Predators if they had pushed themselves more to compete for loose pucks.

“We can’t be happy,” Quenneville said. “We lost some tough games the last couple, but those are definitely winnable hockey games. Those are the games that bothered us, me more than anybody.

“We didn’t play the right way to give us a chance to win. We didn’t challenge pucks. We weren’t hard in the puck area. We were easy to play against. They out-manned us in the loose puck areas and came up with all the loose pucks. When you don’t come up with the loose pucks anywhere around the rink, you’re going to be chasing it. We were chasing the game and the score in both games.”

Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp was optimistic Saturday’s practice would lead to a better outcome Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center.

“It was a short one, but it was high intensity and a couple battle drills in there that kind of reinforce the type of things we’re trying to do better,” Sharp said of practice. “Whenever we do that, it usually translates into good things on the ice.

“I don’t think [Quenneville’s] very happy. I don’t think we’re happy either. A lot of things that are costing us games are preventable. It’s up to us players to apply what Q is talking about in practice and in meetings into the games. Looking for a better effort tomorrow.”

With 15 regular-season games remaining and teams still jockeying for playoff position, Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg didn’t think they had much time to figure things out.

“I think urgency would be the word,” Versteeg said. “We have to find urgency in our game right from the first puck drop. I know we find it at times. That’s when we can really take over a game and play the way we want. We got to find ways to do it throughout an entire game like we did against Columbus.”

Aside from wanting more effort, Quenneville would also like to see more balance in his team’s offense. He shook up the lines again during practice Saturday and placed Versteeg, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa on the first line; Bryan Bickell, Michal Handzus and Patrick Kane on the second line; Sharp, Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad on the third line and Brandon Bollig, Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith on the fourth line.