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Blackhawks hit big bump in road in 4-2 loss to Canucks

Paul Skrbina, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Hockey

VANCOUVER, British Columbia--Until Thursday, there had been no place like away from home for the Chicago Blackhawks.

At least lately.

Before their 4-2 loss to the Canucks, the Hawks had won four in a row on the road and were 5-0-1 away from the United Center since Dec. 29, outscoring opponents 27-13 in the process.

"We'll buy into any good storylines right now," captain Jonathan Toews said. "Anything that can let us feed off that and gives us confidence.

"We don't want to look at the big picture ahead of us too much."

That big picture is framed in parity, and the Blackhawks are lagging in the crowded standings five points and four spots out of the second wild-card spot in the West.

In an atypical January, the Hawks struggled at home to the tune of a 2-5-1 record.

The Hawks are at a loss to explain their recent road showings -- and their recent home woes.

"We didn't play very well in our building in that stretch," Toews said. "We want to have a good road trip here and when we go back to our building, go into those games with that same mind set. We can eventually feed off the crowd when we get things working our way."

Things worked the Hawks' way early during Thursday's game. Nick Schmaltz staked them to a 1-0 lead with 4 minutes, 45 seconds left in the first period off a pass from Brandon Saad, who recorded his first point in 10 games.

Hawks goalie Anton Forsberg, who has stepped to the forefront with Corey Crawford showing no signs of imminent return from an upper-body injury that put him on injured reserve Dec. 27, made some big saves early.

But just after a Hawks power play ended in the second period, the Canucks' Brendan Gaunce tied the score. Bo Horvat untied it 4:25 later when he redirected a shot between Forsberg's legs.

Daniel Sedin beat Forsberg early in the third to take a two-goal lead, which Alex DeBrincat cut to one with a laser with 9:41 left. But Gaunce scored again later in the third.

"'Fors' is coming off two really good games; call (Nashville) a goalie win," Quenneville said. "It has been a healthy situation in a tough spot."

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A spot Forsberg said he's happy to be in.

"I always want to play, simple as that," Forsberg said. "(Jeff Glass has) been playing well and I have to play well to get the net. It's a competition, and that's good."

Going into Thursday, Forsberg had won three in a row on the road and had a 1.33 goals-against average and .957 save percentage during that time.

He made a career-high 42 saves Tuesday night, including 22 during the third period, in a 2-1 victory over the Nashville Predators.

"We've had confidence in him all along," Patrick Kane said. "He has had some good games where we really haven't helped him out too much. We all thought he was capable of doing what he did the other night.

"Maybe (he took his play) to another level against Nashville."

The Hawks likely will have to keep taking it to another level to stay in the thick of the playoff race.

On the heels of playing six straight at home, the Hawks are in the midst of a four-game road trip, and a five-in-seven on the road swing.

"Sometimes I think you simplify your game a little more on the road, knowing you don't have to put on a show," Kane said.

For now, that show is on the road.

(c)2018 Chicago Tribune

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