Blackhawks' Cup hangover?

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:19 PM ET

Before the season began, it was a good bet the Flames would be where they are Feb. 7.

Heading into their meeting with the Chicago Blackhawks Monday night, the Flames are within striking distance of a playoff spot with a 50-50 chance of making the second season.

Who could have guessed the Blackhawks — the defending Stanley Cup champions — would actually trail the Flames?

A case of the famous Stanley Cup hangover?

“There might have been some validity to that, but we weren’t firing on all cylinders through the first part of the year and we dug ourselves a hole,” said head coach Joel Quenneville after Sunday’s practice at the Saddledome. “Teams are ready for you, but it’s also because they’re looking at the standings and know the importance of the two points.”

Case in point, Monday’s clash.

The Flames are one point out of the Western Conference’s elite eight and in 10th.

The Hawks are among the logjam of clubs sitting from fourth through 12th and separated by just seven points.

But if the Blackhawks are fretting, they’re not showing it.

“It’s not a position you want to be in, especially after the 82 games are over, but we’ve got about 30 games left and are playing teams we’re competing with,” said winger Patrick Kane. “If we put it together, we should be OK.”

The Blackhawks don’t have the four-line firepower of last season but still have plenty of talent. It’s why they have the No.-1 powerplay in the league.

But elements are missing.

“Our home record (16-13-0) is probably the one area that’s put us in the predicament we are today,” Quenneville said. “We had a lot of games and didn’t take advantage of them.”

Another area is the number of clashes in which they were either tied or led in the third period but lost.

In their favour, though, is the experience gained from the past couple of seasons.

“It almost seems like the playoffs now, even though we’ve got 30 games left,” Kane said. “There has to be some veteran leadership from what we went through.

“We’re sitting in 11th place today, you can sit around and panic, but I don’t think that’s the kind of group we have. I think everyone’s confident in what we have in here.”

Giving the keys

A return to Calgary, where he lived for a few years as a youngster, gives Patrick Sharp a chance to visit his brother, Chris.

The belated Christmas present from the Hawks centre will be coming soon.

Sharp won a Honda Crosstour as the all-star game MVP and will give it to his older sibling, a commercial insurance salesman.

“He’s all excited. We’ll wait until the snow melts a little bit before we give him a new car to drive around,” Sharp quipped.


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