Getting contributions from the defense has always been a big part of the Blackhawks' offense -- and this season is no different.
The Hawks boast four defensemen in the top 30 in the league in scoring from the blue line going into the weekend, led by Duncan Keith's 12 points (all assists). Brent Seabrook, Nick Leddy and Niklas Hjalmarsson all have 8 points to rank among the NHL leaders.
"It helps, no question about it, when our defense jumps into the play and get the forwards the puck," winger Patrick Sharp said. "These guys in here as forwards, we want the puck at all times, so they're the key to our team game when they get in the rush."
Keith is the biggest key when it comes to the defense joining the attack.
"When he's on the attack or he's off the point in the offensive zone on cycles or power play, it creates openings in other places," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "That shot mentality and offense we get from the back end has been important for us. Him or anybody from the back end, we want them involved off the point shooting the puck.
"He's got a nice shot, be it off the point or in the zone. It creates a lot of action. Our power play has been effective and he's got a weapon there as well."
Keith is quietly regaining the form that earned him the Norris Trophy in 2009-10, when he finished with a career-high 69 points and was plus-21.
"I'm trying to have a good gap and be up on the play and keep pucks alive and create off of that," Keith said. "It's important to have the defense involved in the play as much as we can to relieve some of that pressure on the forwards."
The five-man unit on the attack is what the Hawks are trying for on most nights.
"That's what we want," Jonathan Toews said. "We want five guys playing together, especially when we're going down on the rush. So the more we can come back hard as forwards and give them that support, we can turn around and transition the puck really well.
"The easier we make it on our defensemen, the more energy they'll have to step up in the play and make things happen."
The line of Toews, Sharp and Marian Hossa continues to be dominating for the Hawks.
"We've shown that we can take advantage of opportunities, but we want to be that line that sustains pressure and keeps pucks and plays alive every single shift," Toews said. "We know we can be dangerous on the rush when he get speed going, but at the same time we want to control pucks down low in their zone and not turn it over and have to wait until next time to get the puck back."
Saturday's game in Dallas will be the fourth of 18 in a row in the Western Conference for the Hawks. That includes their six-game circus road trip that starts Nov. 19 in Colorado.
"We'll have a pretty good assessment where we're at by the end of it," Quenneville said in reference to the stretch of games against the West. "I know we've got a tough road trip coming up at the end of the month, play in some tough buildings, so that will be a good measuring stick there.
"I don't think it makes a difference who were playing; we just want to make sure we're playing the right way, doing things and getting points out of games to put us in the right place."
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