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Power play fizzles feebly
When he took over as coach of the Blackhawks, Denis Savard talked about the postseason, and for the first weeks of his reign, that didn't seem unreasonable.
But now, with the Hawks 13 points out of the last playoff spot in the West with the season in the back turn, it's a different message Savard is preaching. It's simply to enjoy yourself.
"We have to enjoy what we're doing," Savard said Friday morning before the NHL-leading Nashville Predators dealt the Hawks their 10th loss in a row, 3-1 at the United Center.
"We have to enjoy being together," he stressed.
Winning is enjoyable, or at least so the Hawks have been told. It has been so long since they won a game they might have forgotten what it felt like.
Vernon Fiddler scored the winning goal with 2 minutes 21 seconds left. The Predators' Alexander Radulov scampered behind the Hawks' net as Nikolai Khabibulin played the puck back and stole the pass to Jassen Cullimore. Radulov then sent a centering pass to Fiddler for the game-winner.
Former Hawk Scott Nichol added an empty-netter with 42.6 seconds left.
The Hawks were given a golden opportunity to take control of a 1-1 game early in the third period when they had a five-minute power play after the Predators' Dan Hamhuis was given a major and game misconduct for boarding Brent Seabrook.
But the Hawks failed to sustain any pressure and managed just three shots on goal.
"The five-minute power play is where we lost the game," Martin Havlat said. "We got it in the zone a couple times and they just threw it out."
Savard has no answer.
"We continue to work on [the power play]. That's my job," he said. "We didn't do what we talked about. We get the puck in position to attack and don't."
The Predators got on the board early in the second with a fluke goal. Kevin Klein skated behind the Hawks' net and threw it toward the front of the goal. The puck hit the skate of Cullimore and bounced between Khabibulin's legs.
The 1-0 lead held until the Hawks' two All-Star representatives teamed up at the 15-minute mark of the second.
Havlat, who had two goals and an assist in the All-Star Game, found YoungStar Seabrook alone in the high slot and gave him a perfect pass. Seabrook ripped a shot through the pads of Tomas Vokoun for his fourth goal of the season.
The Hawks had a chance to take the lead late in the second when the Predators' Jason Arnott went off for delay of game, giving the Hawks their third straight power play of the night. But 27 seconds into it, Havlat and Hamhuis got tangled and Havlat was given an extra minor, negating the power play.
Defenseman Jim Vandermeer broke his right ankle late in the first period.
Winger Peter Bondra was supposed to be off injured reserve and available Friday. He participated in Friday's morning skate but wasn't removed from the IR list, and now the Hawks are targeting the upcoming road trip for Bondra's return.
Savard also said he expects Rene Bourque to be back from his Norfolk rehab by Monday and be ready to go on the trip. Bourque has been out since Jan. 2 with a cracked bone in his ankle.
Cullimore played his first game since Jan. 5 because of an injured shoulder. He missed seven games. With Cullimore back in the lineup, Lasse Kukkonen was scratched for the sixth time in the last 10 games.
The Hawks also lost 10 in a row last season, from Dec. 18 to Jan. 8. Before that, the Hawks hadn't had a double-digit losing streak since 1951, when they closed the 1950-51 season losing 12 straight.