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At the Rink blog

Defense carrying Hawks to top

Saturday, 01.21.2012 / 7:20 PM

By John Manasso - NHL.com Correspondent / At the Rink blog

NASHVILLE -- Keeping the puck out of the net isn't exactly the Chicago Blackhawks' forte, but the Hawks have excelled defensively during the recent hot streak that has seen them race to the top of the NHL standings.

The 'Hawks entered Saturday ranked 15th in the NHL in goals-against-per-game at 2.77 but first overall in the standings. They are 5-0-2 entering Saturday's match at Central Division rival Nashville and had allowed just 16 goals during that span (2.29 per game).

When Patrick Sharp, the team's second-leading goal-scorer with 20, hurt his wrist on Jan. 10 -- he's expected to be out at least another two weeks -- coach Joel Quenneville's message to the team was to win with defense.

The 'Hawks have done that.

"I think it's team awareness," Quenneville said on Saturday evening. "Whether it's doing good things with the puck, not necessarily looking for a better play, we're trapping guys on the rush in the offensive zone, how we're checking in our end, putting the puck in safe areas, chipping pucks, getting pucks deep, a little bit more of a purpose in the game, as opposed to trying make plays all the time or thinking we're going to outscore the opponent. That's always an ongoing challenge."

Qunneville also said the 'Hawks would not have any lineup changes, but that Corey Crawford would start in goal after Ray Emery played in Friday's 3-1 home win against Florida.

Once again, it shows character in this dressing room. Once again, there's no quitting in here. We all wanted this so bad and we worked so hard to get home-ice advantage and we weren't going to let this one slide.

— Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog on his team's OT Game 1 win vs. Minnesota Wild