The last time the Hawks were gone for so long, there was an Olympic break involved and there wasn't any hockey in the NHL for two weeks. So this is different.
The Hawks begin a three-week, nine-game road trip Tuesday night. While that seems almost cruel, it does break up that the Hawks could conceivably come home after the third and sixth game of the trip. Most likely, they'll stay out west for two weeks, come home for a couple days before heading to Nashville, New York, and Columbus.
But no part of this trip is easy. It starts tonight with those quiet, friendly affairs that are games against the Canucks. While the Hawks won there last time, they then backed that up by embarrassing themselves, the city, and maybe even human kind as a whole with the two games in Alberta. Hopefully, they'll remember that. Then again, they still got pantsed by the Oilers when they were last in Chicago, so remembering isn't the same as doing something about it. The Oilers are beat up a bit, and the Flames have made a couple moves to try and sneak into the playoffs. No easy games there.
After that, there's a couple days break before heading into Colorado, who are fading from view in the playoff picture. But they also walked out of the United Center with an easy as can be 4-0 win, when the Hawks were still picking up the pieces from the loss in Philadelphia. From there, it's a San Jose-Phoenix back to back, because those two towns are so close to each other. Games against the Sharks in The Tank are always a test, and the Yotes have provided their fair share of problems for the Hawks the past two years. But they're out of the playoff picture for the moment, and whatever pixie dust/radioactive chemical Dave Tippett was using to get these guys in the playoffs the past two years may be running out.
This is where the Hawks can come home for a bit, and break the trip up. Then it's another slog in Music City, where the last one didn't go so well, before a marquee matchup with the Rangers on Broadway. The Rangers are the East's best team, and the Hawks haven't won at Madison Square Garden in eons. That's a date to circle. The trip ends with a matinee in Columbus that screams. "Running bus", because not only is it the last game of the trip but the following day sees the St. Louis Blues first trip to the UC. Hopefully the Hawks will have a good record on the trip wrapped up by this game.
10 points would be considered a success. Anything above that is gravy. Anything below that is going to make the rest of the season a sprint of death to try and get to the top of the division and conference alive.
Enjoy the couch.
Sam Fels is the proprietor of The Committed Indian, an unofficial program for the Blackhawks. You may have seen him hocking the magazine outside the United Center at Gate 3. The program is also available for purchase online. Fels is a lifelong 'Hawks fan and he also writes for Second City Hockey .