The wheeling and dealing is over.
Now it's time for the Blackhawks to get serious about stringing some wins together to solidify their playoff position.
"We want to make sure we make a real good push to the end here," coach Joel Quenneville said.
Monday night at the United Center was a good start as the Hawks defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2. The victory pulled Quenneville's squad within 4 points of St. Louis and, just as important, 5 points ahead of Winnipeg, which sits in the first wild-card spot.
"We've got a lot of teams fighting for a lot of places in our conference and our division," Quenneville said. "There's a lot to be sorted out between now and then. We want to make sure we're playing better."
Mission accomplished, for one night anyway.
Jonathan Toews scored 2 goals, the first off a great pass from the beleaguered Michal Roszival, and the second coming short-handed on a nice flop pass from Duncan Keith just 44 seconds into the second period to make it 2-0.
Toews, who also added an assist, has 5 goals in the last five games and 21 in all, meaning he has hit the 20-goal mark in all eight of his NHL seasons.
"We took advantage of our chances," Toews said. "We went to the net (and) we got rewarded for it. When you're able to distance yourself in a game like that, you can just play with confidence and play a little more relaxed."
Unless you're Quenneville, who quipped, "I never get relaxed" in the postgame media session.
Also notching his 20th goal -- and setting a career high in the process -- was Brandon Saad, who banged in his own rebound at 9:42 of the second period. Marcus Kruger added a second-period goal at 15:42 and the rout was on.
Roszival, a healthy scratch the last two games, played more than 19 minutes, finished with 2 assists and was a plus-3. "Rosy was good," Quenneville said. "I liked the way he bounced back. Obviously a great play to Johnny and I thought he defended well."
This was the first game for fans to see two of the Hawks' three trade acquisitions: Kimmo Timonen and Antoine Vermette. It was Timonen's first game action of the season; he saw 17:29 of ice time, blocking 2 shots.
Vermette, meanwhile, struggled a bit, winning just 5 of 17 faceoff attempts. He also had an ugly turnover six minutes into the second period that forced Corey Crawford to make a point-blank save on a Jeff Skinner slap shot.
Vermette, though, wasn't about to focus on any negatives. "Overall I'm usually more productive in the circle," he said, "but we won tonight, so that's all that matters."
A visiting player to the United Center on many occasions, Vermette also found out he actually can enjoy it when Chelsea Dagger blasts over the loud speakers. "That song sounded way better," he said.
Crawford finished with 27 saves and improved to 25-14-4.
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