The Blackhawks are off to a franchise-best 6-0-0 start and will now play six consecutive away games due to the United Center being occupied by Disney On Ice. They will travel to Minnesota, Vancouver, Calgary, San Jose, Phoenix and Nashville before returning home to face Anaheim on Feb. 12.
“It’s going to be a huge test,” said Hossa after Tuesday’s practice at Johnny’s IceHouse West. “So far we are pleased with how we started, but we know it’s just the first six games. We don’t want to try to make a huge deal about it because it’s the beginning of the season.
“We know how important these games on the road are going to be. It’s going to be a real test. When we come back after six games, we’ll really know where we are.”
It’s not as if the Blackhawks haven’t been challenged yet. They began the season with back-to-back games against the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes on the road and have played four of their first six games away from home. They’ve defeated the Dallas Stars and Columbus Blue Jackets on the road and the St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings at the United Center.
Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford has been one of the reasons for the Blackhawks’ strong start. He’s 5-0-0 with a 1.78 goals-against average and .933 save percentage.
Crawford is scheduled to start again against on the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday, and he said the key for the Blackhawks is not looking back or ahead.
“It’s the next game,” Crawford said. “The next game we focus on. I’m not worried about anything other than that.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville rattled off Tuesday what he’s liked about his team so far, including Crawford’s play, the penalty kill and the power play, but he doesn’t want his players to get complacent or too relaxed because they’re atop the standings right now.
“It’s early in the season, but it’s really not as far as the meaning of the games,” Quenneville said. “We’ll value each and every game.”
While Quenneville would obviously prefer a more balanced schedule, he’s tried to find the positives in playing so many away games early in the season.
“I think it’s good for the bonding,” Quenneville said. “It’s good for the chemistry. The guys can spend some time together even if they did have some time earlier. When we looked at the beginning of the season, it’s a tough deal to work with, but I think the guys have taken advantage of the time. I think we’re going to build on it this trip as well.”