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updated: 4/7/2014 8:04 PM

Rather than panic, the Blackhawks adjust

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  • One thing about Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville: He isn't prone to panic.

    One thing about Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville: He isn't prone to panic.
    Associated Press


When you've coached and played 2,100 NHL games, there's not a lot about hockey you haven't seen before over the course of a season.

It's why Joel Quenneville doesn't panic or come apart at the seams when his team hits a bad stretch or suffers a spate of injuries.

He has lost Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews but knows he'll have them back for the playoffs.

And Quenneville has been in tougher spots.

During his final year in Colorado, with a far less talented team, Quenneville completely changed his team's style of play after losing Joe Sakic, Paul Stastny and Ryan Smyth, at times willing to win games 1-0 or 2-1 if necessary, and going through a 9-2-0 stretch late in the season when the Avs gave up only 13 goals and ensured a playoff position.

Not that the Blackhawks will ever suffer that much offensively, but they have gotten back to basics in their 3 wins since Toews left the lineup, and Sunday they looked more like the Blues than did the Blues themselves, playing smart defensively and taking the body whenever possible.

"I liked our simplicity," Quenneville said after the Hawks' 4-2 victory Sunday. "Three very workmanlike games and a good response from our team."

The depth displayed in the last three games will no doubt benefit the Hawks when they are back at full strength, but you'll not hear Quenneville crying about injuries or whining about the tough schedule or Olympic tournament.

He adjusts and expects professional hockey players to do the same.

"Yeah, we've tightened it up," said goaltender Corey Crawford. "Those three games on the road, I don't think that's really what we wanted, to play that way, but those things happen.

"We've played pretty solid the last three games."

What they've done is tighten up their play, which includes being more responsible in all three zones, thinking defense first and being in the right spot providing puck support.

Offensively, it's been pucks to the net and swarm the rebounds.

"When Kane and Toews went down, we kind of realized we have to play a simpler game," said Michal Handzus. "We have to be skating more and playing more the right way.

"Before, everyone wanted to score and not pay attention to defense and playing the right way. Now, we're playing more as a five-man unit, skating hard, shooting the puck, keeping it simple and the goals are going in."

Handzus doesn't think the Hawks have done anything out of the ordinary the last three games, but injuries to their top players served as a wake-up call and forced them back to the basics.

"That's how we played before. Now, we're just finding the successful formula again for how we play in the playoffs," Handzus said. "We're getting more on pucks, supporting each other more, simplify the game and shoot the puck on the rush. That's how we get the pressure in their zone.

"But first you have to get back to helping the defense, and a lot of that is being where you're supposed to be."

So while the Hawks seem to be back on track, the Blues are slumping and look like a team the Hawks wouldn't mind facing when the playoffs start next week. At the same time, Colorado is playing great hockey down the stretch.

"It was an important game, a good test for us," Crawford said about defeating the Blues. "They play a pretty sound game.

"They come out flying and we have to try to keep our feet moving, keep the puck away from them and try to move it fast so you're not getting crushed every time you touch the puck.

"Eventually, a team that runs around like that tends to stop doing that a little bit throughout the game. You just have to make sure it doesn't get away in the first 10 minutes."

Crawford, however, was also careful to say that a couple regular-season wins doesn't necessarily translate into a playoff prediction.

"We have some good feelings, and a good memory is better than a bad memory," he said. "But we've seen regular-season results against a certain team is not really a factor in the postseason. Maybe you know teams' tendencies and the type of game they bring, but the results don't really matter."

What matters for the Hawks right now is they've regained some confidence and feel good about their depth heading into the postseason.

Getting healthy is the next step.

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.

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