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Article updated: 2/26/2013 8:01 PM

Teams gunning to break Blackhawks' streak

By Tim Sassone

Everybody wants a piece of the Blackhawks.

That's what happens when you've gone the first 19 games of the season without a loss in regulation.

The Hawks (16-0-3) are coming off games against Columbus and Edmonton, two of the weaker teams in the NHL, but they were tough 1-goal battles because everyone wants to be the team that ends the streak.

"You can tell that every team is ready for us," said winger Marian Hossa. "They try to be the first to stop this team and you can feel it.

"It's getting tougher and tougher, everyone checks harder, everybody gets prepared for us more. But it's a good test for us."

The Hawks are passing every test these days while trying to maintain their focus with every team gunning for them.

"It feels like every game has been a tough game this year," winger Patrick Sharp said. "It feels like every night we're getting the opponent's best effort, at least that's what it feels like. It's up to us to find a way to win.

"That's how it is at the end of the season. There's never an easy game the last part of the year and definitely in the playoffs so the harder we play now the more comfortable we get in those tight games.

"We know how easy it can change. Everything is fun and happy right now, but things change in this league if you take your foot off the gas."

Still, 19 games without a regulation loss to start the season has never been done, and even the Hawks can't help but be impressed.

"I think if you had said before the season that we would be 16-0-3 it would have blown our socks off," Sharp said. "I don't think anyone anticipated that, but as the season has gone on it's just been come to the rink and prepare to play.

"There are no weak spots in our lineup and that's a complement to the young guys coming in, the new players we added and the returning guys from last year."

The Hawks have won six games in a row and just finished a 6-0-1 homestand. They put their historic streak on the line Thursday at St. Louis.

"It's an amazing start that we've had," Sharp said. "We've come from behind. We've played with leads. But without sounding arrogant, it's business as usual.

"We have an attitude in here that we can win every night. We're healthy right now, we're confident and we want to keep getting better.

"We know it's not how you start. We've had some good regular seasons around here before and were frustrated the way things ended. We can't just hang our hat on having a great start. We've got to keep getting better and better because the league does every year."

The Hawks are 10-0-3 in 1-goal games, so they have shown they can win the close ones.

"This team just keeps finding ways to win," winger Patrick Kane said. "The way we play, it's going to be a close game. That's just the way it's going to be.

"The West is a very tough conference and every team can compete, so for us to have a good record in these 1-goal games is huge."

Oilers coach Ralph Krueger called the Hawks relentless after Sunday's game and that's how Hawks coach Joel Quenneville wants to play.

"I like to be on the puck," Quenneville said. "We want to play a pressure game. We've got some guys who have patience. I think that tenacity is something we wanted to make sure we took on as an identity to start the season.

"Our thinking is we want to get better. Accepting just OK is not good enough. This league is so tight and competitive and close so doing the right way is what we're all about.

"The guys are pushing one another and they want to find ways to get points and work our way through games."

ŸFollow Tim's hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.

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