Perhaps the saddest aspect of the Blackhawks' situation is nights like Sunday.
It wasn't that long agothough it seems like decadeswhen such nights were standard on West Madison Street. Overflow crowds and a raucous atmosphere were the norm.
Now it's only when the Detroit Red Wings come to town with their traveling fans that the United Center has that kind of feeling.
Barring a dramatic turnaround in the fortunes of the home team, there might not be any more nights like Sunday for the rest of the season, as the Red Wings made their last stop of the season in Chicago.
The Hawks, though, made Detroit's final visit a game to remember by skating to a 3-0 victory before a season-high crowd of 21,122.
Michael Leighton picked up his second shutout of the season and his second in three games, blanking the highest-scoring team in the NHL with 20 saves.
"Tonight was one of our better games defensively," Leighton said. "It made for an easy night for me."
In the last week, the Hawks have sandwiched shutouts of St. Louis and Detroit around a horrific 4-1 home loss to Columbus, which hadn't won on the road all season.
Which Hawks team will show up Monday night to face the Pittsburgh Penguins, owners of the worst record in the NHL?
"We are definitely going to address that," defenseman Nathan Dempsey said. "We're going to reiterate what makes us successful."
Dempsey got the Hawks going late in the first period when he beat Detroit goaltender Manny Legace on the short side from a foot off the goal line.
One-goal deficits don't worry the Red Wings, who came into the game with a league-high 126 goals.
But unlike their last meeting on Dec. 19 in Detroit, when the Wings dominated the second period, the Hawks never let the Red Wings get anything going. After 40 minutes, Detroit had 10 shots.
"There was nothing five-on-five at all," Hawks coach Brian Sutter said.
Neither Pavel Datsyuk nor Steve Yzerman had a shot all night, and Brett Hull managed just one.
Tuomo Ruutu made it 2-0 late in the second period when a Tyler Arnason shot glanced off his leg on the power play.
Deron Quint closed the scoring late in the third with his first goal of the season, also on the power play.
The Hawks have only one more game left against the Wings, Jan. 14 in Detroit. That's too bad from the Hawks' standpoint.
Last season, goaltender Jocelyn Thibault said because the Hawks are afraid of being embarrassed by a team like Detroit, they play with a heightened sense of urgency.
"There is that element," winger Mark Bell said. "The fact they can explode offensively, there is more urgency in our games playing against them."
What the Hawks have to learn is how to play with that kind of urgency against the rest of the league.
"Not just every night, but every period and every shift," Bell said.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun