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updated: 2/25/2011 8:21 PM

Blackhawks seeking defenseman

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Often it's the acquisitions considered to be minor that can make a significant difference on a good team.

For example, signing veteran center Ryan Johnson as a free agent in December has started paying off for the Blackhawks in a lot of important ways.

Now Hawks general manager Stan Bowman appears to be trying to follow a similar formula as he continues his search for a depth defenseman before Monday's NHL trade deadline.

Bowman refused all interview requests Friday, but that didn't slow the rumor mill from churning out all the names of defensemen who might interest the Hawks, such as Tampa Bay's Brett Clark, Edmonton's Ladislav Smid and Jim Vandermeer, Anaheim's Sheldon Brookbank and Colorado's Matt Hunwick.

Further adding to the intrigue Friday was Hawks defenseman Nick Boynton going on waivers.

If Boynton isn't claimed and the veteran is sent to Rockford, his cap hit would come off the books, giving Bowman another $600,000 to spend on a new defenseman.

Nick Leddy was assigned to Rockford on Friday, but assuming he is coming back, the Hawks would have roughly $1.7 million to acquire a player before Monday.

Since the season started, Bowman has made two acquisitions in Johnson and winger Michael Frolik, who still is without a point in seven games.

"I think the last couple games we've seen a little more," coach Joel Quenneville said. "It's tough to measure your game in a production way when you're not scoring, but if he can contribute in other ways and be positionally strong and predictable in his shifts, I think that scoring is going to come."

Johnson appears to have found his niche as fourth-line center and has contributed to the Hawks' three-game winning streak.

Johnson is plus-2 with 2 assists in the last three games, helped kill six of seven penalties and is 20-19 on faceoffs.

"When you get here when I did in the middle of the season like I did, it's not easy to jump in and establish yourself at that point," Johnson said. "Now I feel comfortable in my role on the team and where I fit in."

Johnson has taken a lot of the pressure off Jonathan Toews on faceoffs, especially on the penalty-kill and late in games.

"It's one of the little things about my game that I take a lot of pride in that can make a huge difference in wins and losses," Johnson said. "I want that responsibility and I've had it a lot more lately and I hope to continue to help in that matter."

Johnson has had to earn his way into the lineup. There was a stretch starting in late December and into early February where he was a healthy scratch in 12 of 17 games.

Once Patrick Sharp was moved back to wing from center it created an opportunity for Johnson to play regularly.

"People knew what I could bring, but it was just a matter of getting in the flow of things consistently," Johnson said. "When I came here a lot of the team was healthy and there was a lot of depth, and so I had to kind of bite my tongue a little bit and sit on the side, but I'm excited about playing my role and playing it consistency and helping this team win."