CHICAGO -- They had three days to revel in a satisfying victory over the Capitals to open the season, and then the Blackhawks had three days to stew over a third-period collapse that ended with a shootout defeat to the Lightning.
Welcome to the joys of NHL scheduling.
The excitement surrounding the start of the season has been siphoned by days off and practices for the Hawks since the puck was first dropped Oct. 1.
"A lot of us probably have had enough of practice," winger Patrick Kane said after the latest one Monday. "We're excited to play the games and get ready and kind of get that game atmosphere back again.
"It's almost like football, you play a game -- one a week -- and then you move on to the next practice. It's time we can really use to benefit ourselves, whether it's for practicing special teams or different things we want to do on the ice, but at the same time everyone is excited to start playing the games."
The Hawks are about to get their wish. When they face the Blues in St. Louis on Wednesday night, it will start a stretch of three games in four nights, six in 11 and 11 in 21.
"It's been a real slow schedule, and then all of a sudden things are going to go to a different level," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We're more effective playing games. Once we get more into a routine (with) games ... you get more predictable and into a rhythm and you get to find out more about your team."
The bulk of the practice work the last week has been on special teams. The Hawks again worked on their power play and penalty kill during Monday's session and will have another opportunity Tuesday before boarding a charter for their first road game.
"I'm sure everybody would like to get on a roll a little bit and get a few more games in," said veteran goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who has yet to appear in a game. "You have to be focused and just try to get better in practice and work on things. Especially early in the year there are a lot of things to work on."
A lot was made of the condensed schedule in 2013 when, because of the NHL lockout, the Hawks played their 48 games in 99 days. With a nearly three-week break in mid-February for players to participate in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the Hawks will play their next 58 games in 122 days -- hitting the ice at nearly the same rate as last season.
"It's funny how that happens," winger Patrick Sharp said. "At the start of the season you play one or two games a week, and then you certainly make up for it down the stretch. You look at it as a positive. It gives us some time to practice. We have some new players and they get to learn Joel's system, and us older guys get that practice time we're not going to get the rest of the year.
"We'd all prefer to be playing more games, get into the swing of things and get into a routine, but we'll take the days off and the practice time when we can."
(c)2013 Chicago Tribune
Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services