The Chicago Blackhawks open a key five-game road trip Saturday night when they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets, looking for a boost in the Central Division playoff race.
Chicago will play two games in three nights at Columbus before visiting the last-place Detroit Red Wings for a pair and then playing a road game against the Nashville Predators.
The Blackhawks trail fourth-place Nashville by four points and need to make up ground on the trip. To do so, they'll have to reverse their fortunes of the past month: They have lost five in a row on the road and are just 7-10-3 away from home this season.
Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy said he and his teammates need to play with urgency and togetherness. He did not hold back after the Blackhawks' most recent loss, a 5-1 setback on home ice against the Dallas Stars on Thursday night.
"We seem to be a little bit fragile," said Murphy, one of the team's alternate captains. "Instead of picking each other up after a mistake on a goal or a shift where they're on us, we don't seem to be responding very well. That's on us as a group, and even a leadership group, to be able to recognize things and get our game going in the right direction."
Columbus also is looking for a spark during a disappointing season. The seventh-place Blue Jackets have lost four of their past five games, including a 6-4 defeat against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday. They have won only two of their past 10.
Zach Werenski and Max Domi scored in the third period against Tampa Bay, but it was not enough to rally the Blue Jackets from a four-goal deficit. They were stung by a slow start as Tampa Bay scored three goals in the first six minutes and held a 4-1 lead at the first intermission.
Columbus coach John Tortorella is looking for more.
"We don't have the culture we need to have here right now," Tortorella said. "We haven't. I think that's a big part of my job, and we've lost that. ... Especially this year, I think it's a locker room that has a little bit to learn and grow as far as reacquiring a culture (and) a standard of all things."
Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno did not take offense at his coach's comments.
"It's easy to say the culture's not right because of the situation we're in, but it is a reality," Foligno said. "There's a lot of new faces. A lot of guys who haven't been here and understand how we've done it, and there's not been a lot of time to teach how we do it. It's almost been trial by fire, just getting in there and jumping in."
Similarly, in the Blackhawks locker room, Murphy pointed out, "When you're a playoff team and you have your game together, it seems like nothing can faze you. Lately in these losses, when we give up momentum for longer spurts of time, we haven't been."
The Blackhawks and Blue Jackets already have met six times, with Chicago winning four, as the teams head into their final two matchups of the season.
Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton said there still is time to instill winning habits.
"When we don't execute or we do make an individual mistake, winning teams pick each other up and respond," Colliton said. "I'd like to see more of that."
--Field Level Media