Two reasons for the 31-point gap between the San Jose Sharks and the Blackhawks were on display in the second period of Wednesday night's game at the United Center.
First, the Sharks have scored 80 goals in the second period this season while allowing only 50, with the plus-30 among the best ratios in the NHL. The Hawks, on the other hand, are an NHL-worst minus-40 in the middle period.
Sure enough, the Sharks scored the only goal in the second period, which turned into the game-winner in San Jose's 4-1 victory to complete a four-game season sweep of the Hawks.
The goal, from Milan Michalek, came on the power play, highlighting another major difference between the teams.
The Sharks are second in the NHL on the power play, coming into the game with a 22 percent conversion rate. The Sharks connected twice on the power play against the Hawks, with Jonathan Cheechoo netting his second goal of the night with the man advantage in the third period.
The Hawks, of course, have been terrible on the power play since early in the season and have brought up last place in the league nearly the entire year.
Less than two minutes after Michalek put San Jose ahead, the Hawks had a four-minute power play when Kyle McLaren was given a double minor for high-sticking.
Despite getting a couple of good chances, the Hawks failed to convert. That has been a common theme, especially at the United Center.
The Hawks not only have the worst home power play in the league, it's the worst for a home team in the last 20 seasons at just 8.9 percent. The Hawks went 0-for-3 Wednesday.
"We had enough chances to win," coach Denis Savard said. "Pucks are a funny thing. Sometimes they bounce your way; sometimes they don't."
What about the power play?
"It's coming around," Savard said. "I'm proud of our guys. They played hard."
When the Hawks returned from the West Coast last week, Savard was singing the praises of tough guy David Koci and said the physical aspect Koci provides is exactly what the Hawks lacked. But after skating just two shifts in Tuesday night's loss at Columbus, Koci was not in the lineup Wednesday. The Hawks are expected to sign Jack Skille, their No. 1 draft pick in 2005, to an amateur tryout contract that will allow him to go to Norfolk and play the rest of the season and playoffs. Skille then is expected to sign a three-year entry-level contract. The seventh overall selection had eight goals and 10 assists in 26 games for the University of Wisconsin this season. Jonathan Toews, the third overall pick in last summer's draft, was not one of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, college hockey's version of the Heisman Trophy. Toews' North Dakota teammate, sophomore forward Ryan Duncan, is a finalist, as is Miami of Ohio's Nathan Davis, the Hawks' fourth-round selection in 2005. If North Dakota team loses to Michigan this weekend, its season will end. Then the Hawks might come to a contract agreement with Toews, who could play the final few games of the season here. Forward Peter Bondra was scratched for the second straight game. Defenseman Adrian Aucoin was back in the lineup, so the Hawks sent Dustin Byfuglien back to Norfolk.
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