With the Blackhawks getting outhit by the wide margin of 39-16 during Friday's win at Columbus, the question that often gets asked about them is coming around again:
Are the Hawks physical enough and a tough enough team to play against?
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It's a fair question, especially with the playoffs looming when the level of physical play only gets elevated.
Just this week, coach Joel Quenneville asked two of his biggest wingers, Troy Brouwer and Bryan Bickell, to be more of a factor physically. The duo managed 1 hit each at Columbus. Defenseman Brent Seabrook had 6 of the team's 16.
"We need to generate as much as we can," defenseman Brian Campbell said. "Forechecking, we need to be getting on top of things. I do think the way Joel wants us to play, he wants to get in more lanes and take pucks away than going in and hammering guys. We do need to be aggressive and I don't think we have been overly aggressive on forechecks.
"We're not going to back down. We're not the most physical team in the league, but we're going to go and get in those areas and take a hit if we need to and finish in some areas, too."
The Hawks were sloppy in a lot of areas against the Blue Jackets and fortunate to come away with 2 points in a shootout.
"We have to be better than that," Campbell said. "We need to be better in all areas. We're not going to beat teams like Tampa Bay and Montreal and St. Louis, then Detroit back-to-back. If we play like that we'll go 0-5 pretty quick. We got lucky. We definitely need to clean it up going home."
Making a difference:
Ryan Johnson continues to make key contributions.
The veteran center, who has been bumped up to the third line, won 11 of 15 faceoffs at Columbus, blocked a shot and helped the penalty killers in several important situations in the second period.
If not for Johnson, the Hawks would be in a bigger bind at center behind Jonathan Toews with Dave Bolland still sidelined by a concussion, Jake Dowell struggling and rookie Marcus Kruger still trying to find his way after arriving from Sweden.
"We think we have good balance throughout our four lines," Johnson said. "I don't put a lot of credence in second, third or fourth line. You just go out and play as hard as you can."
Johnson is finally hitting his stride after a start to the season when he was without a contract because of two broken feet he was still trying to rehab.
"When it's just broken ones it's just a matter of healing them," Johnson said. "To go through some down times it just makes it that much more rewarding when you get back to where you want to be."
It's Bryan Bickell's turn to fill in for Patrick Sharp on the Hawks' top line, but Patrick Kane is used to the revolving door on that left side.
"Maybe they're just trying some difference things," Kane said. "We've had success with pretty much all three guys in the past. (Viktor) Stalberg was pretty good and (Troy) Brouwer's been good with us before and we played with Bickell at the end of last year and in the playoffs It's giving some players maybe a different opportunity."
The NHL suspended Columbus defenseman Jan Hejda for two games on Saturday for the elbow he laid on Hawks center Marcus Kruger in the second period Friday.
Hejda received only a two-minute penalty at the time from referees Greg Kimmerly and Dennis LaRue.