By Chris Emma-
CHICAGO (CBS) It’s supposed to be a challenge. Six games in the span of a week and a half with countless flights and hotels in between. This is the Blackhawks’ annual circus trip away from Chicago.
And it was a piece of cake for Chicago, which finished with five wins and just one loss.
“We liked our trip,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Tuesday at practice.
The Blackhawks embrace their time away from home. It brings team-building activities, whether it’s exploring new cities, going out to dinner or just staying in the hotel and playing Mario Kart. When the team takes the ice, success seems to follow.
“This team likes playing on the road,” winger Patrick Kane said. “I think we’re kind of suited for it.”
When the Blackhawks embarked on their trip, they were a team struggling to find the back of the net, mired in ninth place in the Western Conference standings. The time away from United Center seemed to be what was needed.
The Blackhawks buried 23 goals in the six games on the road, including seven in Edmonton, often their house of horrors. The trip capped off with 4-1 wins over Western powers Anaheim and Los Angeles, leading Kings coach Darryl Sutter to claim the Blackhawks “are the best team in the league, and that’s clear.”
With that, the Blackhawks traveled home to Chicago sitting in sixth place and just four points shy of the Ducks’ top spot.
“You’re going to have to string that together in this league to get ahead of other teams,” Blackhawks winger Kris Versteeg said.
Through this all, the Blackhawks gained some continuity. Quenneville likes to shake up the lines, but he seemed to find the consistency he was searching for. Jonathan Toews excelled in centering Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad. More notably, Chicago seems to have found the second-line center it’s long needed.
Brad Richards took charge of the Blackhawks’ second line, with Kane looking like Kane and Versteeg showing a revival from his past success.
Chicago general manager Stan Bowman brought Versteeg in last year with the hopes that he could return to form after season-ending knee surgery in 2012.
“It’s nice to have people believe in you,” Versteeg said. “That’s why you try to go to work. You’ve got to be playing your best to prove them right.”
The whole team seems to be playing its best. Now, the Blackhawks are hoping to duplicate their road success on the home ice as they host the rival Blues on Wednesday night.
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.