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Poor puck protection dooms Hawks vs. Coyotes

Patrick Kane and Keith Yandle follow the puck during the Hawks' 2-1 shootout loss to the Coyotes on Friday. Bill Smith/Getty Images

He sat at his locker stall with that infamous Jonathan Toews stare. The one that helped dub him “Captain Serious.” The one we haven’t seen much of this year. But a season-first three-game losing streak brought it out, and Toews didn’t mince words about the latest loss, 2-1 in overtime to Phoenix.

“We got no jump to our game and you’re not going to get any breaks when you’re playing like that,” Toews said. “When you don’t have puck possession, nothing is going to happen for you.

“It comes to our energy level. We have to find a way to push ourselves and motivate ourselves for these games. I don’t know what we’re thinking about right now, but our focus isn’t there.”

Joel Quenneville was less critical of his team, but he is interested in how the Hawks will respond -- considering the three losses in a row -- to the most adversity this team has faced all season.

“I think all year long things have been rather smooth and now it’s a test for us to try and capture some momentum here and find out what it’s like to win [again],” Quenneville said. “We get right back at it [on Saturday], so that’s what we’re anxious to find out.”

Wednesday night against the St. Louis Blues the Hawks were sloppy with the puck and were told to simplify their game. Against Phoenix, it was even worse, considering they didn’t have the puck enough to get sloppy with it.

“Our puck protection, our puck possession game was virtually not there,” Quenneville said.

Toews said the lack of energy is especially offensive considering the excitement the team showed coming home from their long road trip.

“I don’t know if we thought it was going to be easier playing here but teams are going to come in here and step up their game ... and we have to be ready,” Toews said.

Now it’s back to the road against the team that beat them Wednesday. If that isn’t motivation enough, the Hawks might be staring at their first four-game losing skid while the top seed in the conference becomes an even further reach.