With a few exceptions, the Hawks have had some of their best games against contending teams while having trouble against subpar teams.
“You raise your level when you know if you don’t play well you get embarrassed,” Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. “It forces you to get motivation by fear. But I think we need to relish the challenge, relish the opportunity to play in big games. In San Jose we played pretty well and in the last game (against the Stars).”
There aren’t many teams below the Hawks in the standings, but they played four of them over the last few weeks, and none of the performances was inspiring. They barely beat the Senators, Red Wings and Ducks, and lost 6-3 to the Kings.
“Everyone’s good nowadays,” Jonathan Toews said. “So I think you have to raise your level and right now we just know that the meaning of these points and these games, every game’s going to be tough. Playoffs pretty much already started if you ask me.”
No big deal: Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini were each first-round picks of the Coyotes before coming to the Hawks in a November trade for Nick Schmaltz. Perlini played 153 games with the Coyotes but Strome only got into 48 games with the Coyotes before getting dealt.
Strome had already played 44 games with the Hawks prior to Monday’s matchup against the Coyotes and wasn’t feeling too nostalgic before facing his old team.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve been there, so I feel like I’m pretty adjusted here,” Strome said. “Trying to take it as another game and hopefully we can get a win tonight.”
One-timers: Hawks goalie Cam Ward participated in Monday’s morning skate, the first time he has taken the ice with the team since injuring his right knee on March 3 against the Sharks. Colliton said Ward could “potentially” return this week. “Good to have him out there this morning,” Colliton said. “We’ll see how it goes.” … Colliton kept the same lineup for the second straight game, a rarity this season. Forward John Hayden and defenseman Slater Koekkoek remained the healthy scratches.