(WSCR) – The Chicago Blackhawks haven’t been able to maintain a high level of play for long stretches this season. At times they show flashes of last year’s dominance, but overall have struggled to get standings points.
Currently 10th in the Western Conference after a disappointing first half of the season, the Blackhawks have plenty of work to do if they plan on defending their Stanley Cup championship.
Not only haven’t the Blackhawks been playing well, it seems luck isn’t on their side either.
Chicago hosts the Ottawa Senators on Friday night looking to rebound from a tough loss to start a crucial second half of its season.
The Blackhawks (21-18-3) were undone by poor penalty killing and unfortunate bounces Wednesday in a 4-2 loss to Dallas. The Stars converted all three of their power plays against Chicago’s 28th-ranked penalty kill, scoring twice on deflections and putting the Blackhawks down 2-0 in the first period.
“They’re up 2-nothing real quick and that can’t happen,” defenseman Brent Seabrook said. “We’ve got to come out the gate harder and be better on the P.K.”
Viktor Stalberg, who hasn’t scored since Nov. 14, beat goaltender Kari Lehtonen on a penalty shot, but the puck hit the right post, the crossbar, then the left post before bouncing away from the net.
The loss dropped Chicago to 12-11-0 at home – a far cry from last season’s 29-8-4 record at the United Center. Despite playing the second-most games in the conference, the Blackhawks are 10 points behind Central Division-leading Detroit and 12 behind conference leader Vancouver.
“It’s not going to change until we start doing the right things,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “We weren’t as good as we wanted to be the first half of the season at home.”
In attempt to shake up the roster, defenseman Jassen Cullimore was assigned to AHL-affiliate Rockford on Thursday.
Chicago, which has lost four of five, may also make a change in goal. Corey Crawford made 21 saves against the Stars and has received the bulk of the starts of late, but Marty Turco is 3-0-1 with a 2.84 goals-against average in his career against Ottawa.
The Senators, meanwhile, have had struggles of their own.
Ottawa (16-19-5) has lost three straight and five of seven overall. The Senators are 12th in the Eastern Conference, but coach Cory Clouston said his squad could benefit from a shaky first half.
“We want to learn from it,” Clouston told the team’s official website. “We want to use that to motivate ourselves for the second half. We don’t want to forget about it. We want to use it to improve our game.”
The Senators have had five days off since losing 5-1 to Toronto on Saturday. Brian Elliott allowed three goals on seven shots in the first period before being replaced by Mike Brodeur.
“It was absolutely frustrating,” winger Nick Foligno said. “We don’t know for what reason the game got so out of hand but it’s tough to deal with, obviously.”
Leading scorer Daniel Alfredsson has only one goal and one assist and is a minus-4 over his last six games.
The Blackhawks have won three of four in the series. The Senators haven’t won in Chicago since a 5-2 victory March 28, 2001.
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