Upcoming road trip could be turning point for Blackhawks

Scott King
NBC Sports Chicago

Five games past the halfway point the Blackhawks have been as up and down as their 20-20-6 record would suggest. The Hawks have only had two streaks of three-plus game winning steaks, with their longest being four-straight victories in mid-November against the Maple Leafs, Golden Knights, Predators and Sabres.

Chicago needs to put another streak together soon to get above .500 for more than a couple games and they need several if they want to make a playoff push. Right now the Hawks are seven points out of a Wild Card spot in the Western Conference behind the Edmonton Oilers.

"I think we've been playing really good lately," Blackhawks defenseman Olli Maatta said. "I know the scores haven't been there, the results haven't been there, but if you look behind it, we've been playing way better than we did at the beginning of the season. 

"I think we would have deserved a little better [out of] those games we haven't won, but you can't do anything about it now. We just have to keep building on the good things we're doing."

Their road trip to Eastern Canada, with a first stop Tuesday in Ottawa to take on the struggling Senators who are 16-22-7 and second to last in the Eastern Conference, is a prime opportunity to step on the gas and build momentum to climb the standings.

Next up is the Canadiens (19-20-7) in Montreal on Wednesday, another winnable game against a team eight points out of a Wild Card spot in the east. Last on the trip is the Toronto Maple Leafs (24-16-6), third in the East's Atlantic division. 

Despite a higher spot in the standings - and impressive, young talent - the Hawks beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 on Nov. 10 in Chicago to start their only four-game winning streak of the season. 

Looking back at last week's four-game homestand, in which the Blackhawks went 2-2-0, there were plenty of positives they can harness to grab some much-needed points in Canada.

Rookie forward Dominik Kubalik is tied for the rookie lead in goals with 16 after recording eight points (five goals, three assists) in five games. Kubalik has been heating up while playing with Jonathan Toews on the top line and has been going nuclear when Patrick Kane is tossed on the right wing alongside them.

"Very happy with Kubalik's progression," Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said following the rookie's two-goal performance in Saturday's 4-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks. "Does a lot of things away from the puck that allow him to be put in a situation to score. He's going to the net, he's being a shooter, and it's great to see."

Kane is riding a six-game point streak with 10 points (four goals, six assists) and is alarmingly close to his 1,000th career point. He's currently at 995. 

Goalie Robin Lehner was back to his old self after missing three starts with a right-knee injury. Lehner saved 35 of 37 shots to help the Hawks beat the Ducks.

"It was a great win for us to build on," Lehner said. "Going on a road trip and finish off two at home before the break. We have five games left now until the break and one game at a time, but we have to do some damage in those five games and hopefully get going there."

When they return to home ice from Canada, the Blackhawks take on the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday and the Florida Panthers (Q reunion!) next Tuesday. 

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Upcoming road trip could be turning point for Blackhawks originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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