Preparation = frustration

Mark BellJaroslav SpacekJere LehtinenJason ArnottDallas StarsCurtis BrownBill Guerin

In the holiday spirit, first the positives from Sunday night's Blackhawks game at the United Center.

Michael Holmqvist was a plus-1.

That just about covers it for a night on which the Dallas Stars came into Chicago and essentially took care of business in the first two minutes, then stay interested long enough to post a rather easy 5-3 victory in a game that was never in doubt.

The loss was the third in the last four games for the Hawks and dropped them to four games under .500.

Kyle Calder and Jaroslav Spacek said the Hawks gave the Stars too much respect. That's understandable, considering Dallas is now 21-8-1 and 11-3 on the road.

Hawks coach Trent Yawney had a different assessment.

"It's frustrating to see the same mistakes committed over and over and over again," he said.

Yet again Yawney cited a lack of preparation for Dallas scoring twice in the first two minutes. For a team that has boasted about the degree of character its players have, that charge appears to be a ringing indictment.

"When I see a lot of mental mistakes, that shows me a lack of preparation," Yawney said. "I accept responsibility for having them ready to play the game, but as a player, you have to accept responsibility for your own preparation."

In a critical stretch of home games, the Hawks certainly didn't appear ready to play Sunday. The Stars met little if any resistance on their five goals.

Mike Modano, who will likely captain the U.S. team in the Olympics in a couple of months, and Jussi Jokinen scored on rebounds before two minutes had elapsed.

The Hawks couldn't even get anything going with their fists. Twelve seconds after Jokinen made it 2-0, Todd Simpson challenged Nathan Perrott and was dropped with a solid right hand.

Jason Arnott, standing alone by the side of the Hawks' net, converted a nifty Bill Guerin pass with six seconds left in the first period to give the Stars a 3-0 lead and conjure up images of Nov. 4 in Dallas, when the Stars were up 4-0 after one en route to a 9-1 rout.

Sunday wasn't as bad, but despite power-play goals by Mark Bell and Tyler Arnason—the first time the Hawks have had two power-play goals in a game since Dec. 8 at Florida—the Hawks never seriously threatened. After Bell cut the lead to 3-1, Perrott was allowed to walk to the top of the right circle and blow a shot over the left shoulder of Nikolai Khabibulin to make it 4-1.

After Holmqvist made it 4-2 early in the third, Jere Lehtinen went unmolested down the slot to make it 5-2. Arnason's goal at 16:30 of the third period did nothing more than alter statistics after Curtis Brown took an interference penalty when the Hawks had pulled Khabibulin for an extra attacker with 2:14 remaining.

So with 32 games in the books, the Hawks are still firmly entrenched in 13th place, nine points out of a playoff spot.

As Yawney said, the Hawks are making another trip back to square one.

rfoltman@tribune.com

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