The Blackhawks ended 2008 on a red-hot run that was brought to a crashing halt at years end by the NHL Champion Red Wings, including the infamous outdoor drubbing at Wrigley Field. The Hawks have since struggled to regain their confidence, with mixed results.

The weekend series with the Nashville Predators proved to be more of the same for the Blackhawks. Nashville jumped out to an early lead Saturday night, setting the pace for an intense game that the Hawks failed to match. Goaltender Cristobal Huet allowed four goals on 37 shots. Adam Burish scored the lone Blackhawk goal.

“It feels good to be back and healthy,” said Burish, who recently returned from injured reserve. “It’s important to contribute to the team. Score a goal or two, scrum it out in front of the net, lose a bunch of fights. That’s my game.”

The Hawks returned to their winning ways at home Sunday, gaining revenge over the Predators in a 3-1 score that remained close until the final minute when Martin Havlat scored on an empty net to secure the victory. Nikolai Khabibulin remains unbeaten in regulation at the United Center after stopping 26 shots.

Coach Joel Quenneville defended his team’s shaky play over the last two weeks, attributing it to unfamiliar conditions.

“I think the guys really got into playing pond hockey,” said Quenneville. “For the last couple months it’s all anybody was talking about, and now they’re expected to just pick back up and play indoors? It’s a big change. Patrick Kane showed up to the opening faceoff Saturday in a huge down parka. That’s not going to help his slapshot any.”

heckler editorial staff