The Blackhawks believe if they take care of business on their home ice that other business—like a return to the postseason after four seasons away—will take care of itself.
A 17-20-4 home record a season ago helped lead to a last-place finish in the Central Division of the Western Conference, so the Hawks have set their sights on turning that around.
"I told our guys, 'We have a number: 28,' " coach Denis Savard said Wednesday of the amount of home victories he has targeted. "Then once we get to that number, maybe 30 will be a possibility. It's no secret the teams that make the playoffs, their special teams are in the upper echelon and also their home record is good. We need to establish home ice, no question, and take advantage of it."
Wednesday night the Blackhawks didn't take advantage of playing at the United Center as they fell 3-1 to the St. Louis Blues. The loss dropped the Hawks to 2-2 at home and 3-3 overall.
"We came out flat," veteran winger Sergei Samsonov said. "Every time we get two goals behind, all of a sudden we start playing. It's tough to give a team the lead every game and expect to pull it out in the third."
The Hawks were trying to win four in a row over the Blues at home for the first time since Nov. 17, 1991 to Nov. 12, 1992.
St. Louis took a 2-0 lead early in the first period on goals by Paul Kariya on the power play and a full-strength score by Bryce Salvador.
With the Hawks' Robert Lang off for hooking, Kariya picked up a loose puck and put it past Nikolai Khabibulin with Brad Boyes and Keith Tkachuk assisting 2 minutes 14 seconds into the game.
Salvador fired a wrist shot over Khabibulin's shoulder with 6:31 remaining in the period. Doug Weight and Martin Rucinsky assisted, and for Rucinsky, it was his 599th career NHL point.
"You spot a team like St. Louis a couple of goals—whether it's on the power play or no—it's tough to battle back, and they showed that tonight," Patrick Sharp said.
The Hawks cut it to 2-1 on a controversial goal at the 6:20 mark. Jason Williams took a slap shot that hit the end board and ended up on the top of the net, where it spun off the helmet of St. Louis goalie Manny Legace and across the goal line before being cleared.
After a video-review delay of more than 10 minutes, officials awarded the goal to the Hawks. Sharp picked up his first assist of the season and rookie Jonathan Toews his third.
Keith Tkachuk made it 3-1 Blues when he took a centering pass from Brad Boyes and, standing all alone in front of Khabibulin, tipped it in with 14:43 remaining in the second. It was the Blues' second power-play goal of the night after entering the game with two in their first 21 chances of the season.
A big key to the Hawks' success early this season was solid defense that resulted in six goals against in the first three games at the United Center.
"We have a system we put in for our guys to follow, and the idea for that is to have puck possession," Savard said. "We've improved in that department big time."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times