(MCT) CHICAGO — Lightning crackled all around the Blackhawks' plane as it flew through a thunderstorm en route to Minnesota, the first stop on their just-completed six-game trip.
Their performance during the journey that covered 12 days and 5,327 miles was then nothing short of electric as they went 4-0-2 and returned as the only team in the NHL without a loss in regulation. The key now is to maintain the power surge as the Hawks settle in for seven consecutive games at the United Center and 10 of the next 12.
"It's kind of a dangerous situation where you don't want to be too relaxed thinking you're at home and it might get a little easier," goaltender Corey Crawford said. "We have to make sure that we still have the same pace in our game and keep doing the little things right. We'll definitely be excited to be back home and in front of our fans."
The schedule now favors the Hawks, who hold a sparkling 8-0-2 road record but won't play away from the UC until they travel to St. Louis on Feb. 28. Only two multiple-game trips remain, one with four stops from March 14-20 and a two-contest run April 22-24.
"It's a good feeling," winger Viktor Stalberg said. "We're going to be based back home now with just a game or two on the road. We don't want to get comfortable, but we're excited to get back home." The Hawks played with a sense of urgency during their road swing and found different ways to win as there were offensive explosions, defensive clamp-downs, extraordinary special teams efforts and stellar goaltending.
"The last couple of years we felt sometimes we'd only won by offense," Stalberg said. "It's been great seeing we can win these different ways. The goaltending has been phenomenal, our 'D' has been better and the forwards have been playing a lot better, especially defensively."
Now that their bags are unpacked, the focus is on not changing their overall style of play that has vaulted them to the top of the Western Conference standings.
"I don't think we want to see too much difference in our game when we go play at home (because) we've played a lot of smart hockey," captain Jonathan Toews said. "We've slowly, patiently, found ways to win games even if it hasn't been our best hockey."
Added coach Joel Quenneville: "We don't want to change anything. We don't want to feel like we're at home and we can let the air out or want to be cute. We want to play the same way. We like the contribution across the board and let's get excited with the building and the noise and the fans. I'm sure they want to see some hockey, too, so it will be nice to be there."
_Patrick Kane was named the NHL's First Star for the week that ended Sunday after the winger led all skaters with five goals and added an assist as the Hawks earned three wins to improve to 10-0-2 on the season.