Catching Blues seems realistic for Hawks

 
By Brian Hedger
Special to the Daily Herald
Updated 2/19/2015 9:58 PM
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  • With Nashville in control of the division, it may be time for the Blackhawks to shift their focus to catching the St. Louis Blues.

    With Nashville in control of the division, it may be time for the Blackhawks to shift their focus to catching the St. Louis Blues. Associated Press

  • The Blackhawks' Kris Versteeg and the Red Wings' Alexei Marchenko collide going for the puck during overtime Wednesday at the United Center. The Hawks lost 3-2 in a shootout.

    The Blackhawks' Kris Versteeg and the Red Wings' Alexei Marchenko collide going for the puck during overtime Wednesday at the United Center. The Hawks lost 3-2 in a shootout. Associated Press

  • The Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews tries unsuccessfully for a wraparound goal against the Red Wings on Wednesday at the United Center. The Hawks lost 3-2 in a shootout.

    The Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews tries unsuccessfully for a wraparound goal against the Red Wings on Wednesday at the United Center. The Hawks lost 3-2 in a shootout. Associated Press

The Blackhawks aren't ready to concede the Central Division's top spot to the Nashville Predators just yet, but catching them in the final 24 games is starting to look more unrealistic.

Instead, the Hawks will focus on catching the St. Louis Blues for second and staying ahead of the teams behind them. If they can pass the Blues, it would give the Hawks home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs against the third-place team, which would likely be St. Louis.

"If you catch St. Louis right now, if that gets us home ice in the first round, that's a good thing," Patrick Kane said Thursday after practice at the United Center. "There's a lot of time left in the season, a lot of ground to be made up, hopefully. It could go the other way, too. We've got to be careful and make sure we're ready every night."

They looked ready from the outset against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night, despite a 3-2 shootout loss. After several games where the opponent outplayed them early, the Blackhawks dominated the first half of the game.

"That was a good start," said Hawks coach Joel Quenneville. "Against a team that checks well, I thought we generated a lot. We had good pace. We had good speed, (offensive) zone time and the power play was effective. We didn't score, but at the same time we generated some quality stuff. Generally we'll get a lead out of that."

Double duty for Kane:

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville is taking full advantage of 26-year old Kane's ability to absorb a big workload.

Kane has double-shifted on-and-off the past few games and is playing with the first and second power-play units to stay on the ice longer.

Hawks power plays have benefited from Kane's ability to carry the puck into the offensive zone. They went 0-for-4 with the man-advantage against Detroit, but created good scoring chances and stayed in the offensive zone a lot.

"What I've noticed about it is I need to get my stamina up a little bit," said Kane, who leads the team with 63 points (27 goals). "Sometimes I want to get off the ice a little bit early. I think the power play has been pretty good the last few games. We just haven't found the back of the net as much as we've wanted."

The Hossa-Datsyuk show:

It didn't lead to a goal or even a scoring chance Wednesday, but a sequence late in the first period was one of the game's best highlights thanks to a couple of the NHL's best two-way forwards.

Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk deftly lifted Marian Hossa's stick and stole the puck in the Red Wings' zone, only to have Hossa chase him all the way down the ice and return the favor in the Blackhawks' zone.

"I think they had a little contest between each other," Quenneville said of the former Red Wings' teammates. "I think they keep score between faceoffs, when they talk to each other. I think that's a true story.

Practice update:

The only players not on injured reserve to miss practice were Marian Hossa and rookie Ryan Hartman. Quenneville said Hossa was resting and will play Friday against the Colorado Avalanche. Hartman had a lower-body injury that isn't considered serious and might play.

• Defenseman David Rundblad was a healthy scratch for the second straight game Wednesday and is likely to miss a third Friday. The Hawks are trying to evaluate Kyle Cumiskey, who was called up last week from Rockford. The speedy Cumiskey played just 6:24 against the Red Wings, but Quenneville liked what he saw in those 10 shifts.

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