Blackhawks vow to keep improving as playoffs approach
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Clinch a playoff spot.
Win the Central Division.
With eight games to play, there's not much left for the Blackhawks to accomplish in their record-breaking regular season other than win the Western Conference and nail down the President's Trophy for best record in the NHL.
"We're going to keep going," Jonathan Toews said. "I think that's the main thing; we got our division, we got home ice in the playoffs and now we just keep building. I think that really shows that we're hungry and really motivated to improve every single night.
"It doesn't matter what aspect of our game we're working on. There are still some parts we can really work on as far as our power play and penalty killing maybe."
The Hawks went to training camp after the lockout saying their goal was to win the division and they did that Friday by beating Detroit 3-2 in a shootout. It was their 15th division title in franchise history and second Central Division crown.
"It means a lot," goalie Corey Crawford said. "We want to finish first and get home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. It's a great building to play in and there's a lot of energy when we play here."
The Hawks are 17-2-2 at the United Center this season.
"It's a long season even though it's 48 games and there's still a lot of hockey to be played," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We still want to make sure we keep everybody into this here and how we play is going to be our measuring stick. If we do things the right way, hopefully we can come out on top until the end."
It's hard to find fault with anything the Hawks (31-5-4) are doing, but the power play is a potential problem for the playoffs. It's 0-for-12 in the last seven games and 1-for-25 going back 10 games.
"It would be nice to see our power play get some production," Quenneville said. "I thought the couple we had in the first period (Friday) were pretty effective without production again and we seem to be saying that a lot. I didn't like the one in the third.
"We've got to find ways to score on the power play. We've got the personnel and we have the chances."
The Hawks play the Blues on Sunday afternoon in St. Louis and could have center Dave Bolland back in the lineup. Bolland, who has missed the last four games with a foot injury, made the trip with his teammates Saturday.
"It's never fun when you're sitting there watching and guys are playing and having fun," Bolland said. "Watching it at home you're getting anxious and you want to be in there."
If Bolland returns it will be up to Quenneville to decide if he goes back to centering the second line for Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp.
"I think that line with Bolly there throughout the year has been consistent," Quenneville said. "It can contribute on both sides of the puck. I think we're comfortable with the contributions we're getting and what they're bringing to our team game. We believe that could be a real good fit for us."
It's been an up-and-down regular season for Bolland, who admits it's easier for him to get up for the playoffs. Bolland has 7 goals and 7 assists and is minus-4 in 30 games.
"Some say that some guys are good during the regular season and then in the playoffs it's tough to sustain that pace," Quenneville said. "Some guys welcome the challenge of big games and they seem to be bigger. If I had my choice, I would like that consistency that you say you look for in players, but I still like guys that play big games and seem to be big and rise to those challenges."
• Follow Tim's hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.
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