Tuomo Ruutu skated to the front of the Nashville net Sunday night and couldn't take it any longer, the pain in his right ankle too great to continue.
As Ruutu crumpled to the ice with 3 minutes 57 seconds left in the second period, with him went one of the reasons to feel optimistic about the final 41 games of a Blackhawks season that is becoming as bleak as any in memory.
The 5-1 loss to the Nashville Predators was their 10th in a row, a streak of futility unmatched since 1950-51, when the Hawks dropped 12 straight to close the season. Nothing on display against Nashville suggested this season's squad can't match the futility of the 1950-51 team.
Coach Trent Yawney said Ruutu, who needed to be carried off the ice, suffered a "deep cut" around the right ankle. Ruutu was jostling for the puck with a Nashville defender and might have been stepped on, resulting in the gash.
Yawney didn't know the extent of the injury but said Ruutu, playing just his fourth game after missing 25 with a sore back, would not accompany the team to Washington for Tuesday night's game.
Yawney repeated that the Hawks showed enough effort, which again raises the question of whether this team is talented enough to be a factor in the Western Conference.
"I'm disappointed for them," Yawney said. "[Scoring on] a couple open nets could have made a difference in the way they viewed the game. We're a little snakebit around the net right now."
Ten losses in a row is new terrain for Martin Lapointe, a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Detroit Red Wings.
"Once we get out of this, we might be a stronger team," Lapointe said. "That's the hardestkeeping your head up and forgetting about the game."
Mark Bell has seen his share of losses in his young NHL career.
"It's tough," said Bell, who scored the Hawks' only goal. "I've never seen luck like we've had. We have to keep our spirits up. We have a bunch of young guys in here who might start to doubt themselves."
Just 41 games into his NHL coaching career, Yawney is faced with holding together a team whose high hopes at the start of the season have been obliterated at just the halfway point.
"Anybody that's ever been involved in a sporting event knows there is no magic pill you can buy that's going to change everything," Yawney said. "I'm disappointed for the players because they are working hard and they deserve better, but at the same time, we have to keep forging ahead."
Rene Bourque, with no points in his last nine games, was scratched. Scratched for the fourth straight game was Andy Hilbert. So was Todd Simpson. ... In his last five games, defenseman Adrian Aucoin is a minus-10, including minus-4 Sunday with a penalty that led to a Steve Sullivan penalty shot. ... Sullivan's penalty-shot goal at 6:34 of the third period was the third against the Hawks in the last two games and sixth this season. The Hawks have yet to take a penalty shot this season. ... In his last five games since returning from a groin injury, defenseman Jassen Cullimore is a minus-8. ... Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin skated Sunday for the first time since injuring his groin Dec. 28.
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