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Monkey's off Brouwer's back

NEW YORK — Troy Brouwer understands there's only one way to stay atop the Blackhawks' depth chart at left wing and continue to play on a line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

Brouwer must produce like he did in Saturday's 3-1 win at Minnesota when he had a goal and an assist and dished out several punishing hits.

“I need to be physical to be successful,” Brouwer said. “The coaches are always making sure I play physical. Every once in a while I can get complacent and get away from that, but every game I've been at my best I've had four, five or six hits and created space for myself and my teammates.”

Brouwer's slow start this season has seen him bounce around from one line to another. He started Saturday's game down on the fourth line with Jake Dowell and Jack Skille but finished with Toews and Kane.

A big hit on Nick Schultz late in the first period showed coach Joel Quenneville that Brouwer was into the game, so he was given a shot to play with the two guys he clicked so well with for much of last season.

“We've had a few shifts here and there and for the last couple years we've kind of been off and on as a line,” Brouwer said. “It was good to be back together with those guys. We had some real good chances and controlled the play. Maybe they'll think about keeping us together.”

Brouwer's goal late in the second period that gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead was his first of the year in 13 games. He scored 22 goals last season with many of them coming while playing with Toews and Kane.

“Kaner and I played well with Benny (Smith on Saturday), but when Brouwer was out there it was like old times,” Toews said. “We play really well together and kind of feed off each other. It was nice to see him get on the board.”

Brouwer came to training camp optimistic he could top his goal output from last season. He called finally getting his first on Saturday, nearly a month into the schedule, a “big gorilla” off his back.

“For me to get that off is relieving, obviously,” Brouwer said. “I'm considered as somewhat of a goal scorer and I have to do that to be successful in this league. For me to get that goal, it makes me be able to relax and play hockey again.”

Quenneville said Brouwer is like a lot of Hawks who need to be more consistent than they have been over the season's first month.

“He's got to play with that bite in his game because he's more effective around the net,” Quenneville said. “Coming into the season we envisioned him as being one of those (top six) guys. He had a slower start than we anticipated.”

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