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Kopecky playing role on top line to perfection

by Brian Hedger
CHICAGO -- When you play on a line with guys like Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, it's usually best to keep your own game pretty basic.
Chicago Blackhawks forward Tomas Kopecky is finding that out the easy way this season by doing some heavy lifting for the team's top line, which has 9 goals and 23 points combined coming into Wednesday night's game at United Center against Vancouver.
It's a game that could feature a lot of offense from both teams. The Canucks' Sedin twins -- Daniel and Henrik -- are both in the top five in scoring, while Hossa leads the League with 7 goals and 11 points for Chicago.
The Hawks also have Patrick Sharp tied for second in goals (6) and sixth in points (8), and he's scored three-straight game-winning goals. Scan down the list a little bit, and Kopecky is No. 11 in scoring (1 goal, 7 assists).
He chalks a lot of his own success up to skating mostly with Toews and Hossa.

"I know my job on that line. I know what I'm supposed to do. I'm supposed to get pucks for them and give them the puck. They're world-class players. All I have to do is skate hard to the net. If we keep sticks on the ice, then good things are going to happen." -- Tomas Kopecky on skating on a line with Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews

"I know my job on that line," Kopecky told "I know what I'm supposed to do. I'm supposed to get pucks for them and give them the puck. They're world-class players. All I have to do is skate hard to the net. If we keep sticks on the ice, then good things are going to happen."
Thanks to Hossa's torrid seven-game point-scoring streak to start the season, good things have happened regularly for that line. Aided by better health, Hossa is back to being a dominating force. His blinding speed has returned, along with his unique ability to stay on the puck.
If anybody knows when Hossa is at the peak of his game it's Kopecky, who was teammates with him in Detroit and on the Slovakian team in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
"He's so dominant once he gets his speed," Kopecky said. "Once you get him the puck when he's got his speed, there's not many guys who can stay with him or stop him. It's always going to end up in the offensive zone and around the net."
That makes Kopecky's job easier, and makes life for opposing goalies more nerve-wracking.
"Just give (Hossa) the puck when he's got speed," Kopecky said. "Just look for him or Taser, and then just skate hard to the net and stop in front. Sometimes the simpler play for me is better."
Toews is hoping that approach will get him on track offensively, as well. He's got 1 goal and 3 assists so far, which is not the kind of production the Hawks star center and Conn Smythe winner expects out of himself.
That, however, is the good news about Chicago's inconsistent offense thus far. Eventually it won't just be Sharp and Hossa potting all the goals.
"Those two guys have been great," Toews said. "That's the good news. A lot of us can pick it up and we still believe that we have four lines that can score and make plays. We're still waiting for that."
The Hawks will likely be going up against Canucks' No. 1 goalie Roberto Luongo, who was pulled on Tuesday night in Minnesota after two periods of a 6-2 loss after giving up all six goals in just 18 shots. Will their breakout offensively come tonight?
Toews sure hopes it does.
"If we keep working hard it will come," he said. "Hopefully it's a night like tonight, where we don't have to depend on just a couple guys and we can get some contributions from all over."
Hawks don't anticipate intensity drop-off: The games between Chicago and Vancouver have become known for the vitriol between the two teams in the past two seasons.
The Hawks lost a lot of the main irritating figures from those battles over the offseason -- such as Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager and Adam Burish -- but they don't expect the Canucks to come at them with any less emotion tonight.
"I don't see why it would be (less intense)," Toews said. "It's mostly the same guys. I don't think anything's changed. It's fun to win and it (stinks) to lose (to Vancouver). That's what makes it so intense and competitive on both sides."
Vancouver didn't have a morning skate and didn't make players available to speak before the game, so the Hawks were left to talk about the rivalry this morning.
"I'm sure it's going to be a little bit different game tonight," Patrick Kane said. "Both teams will probably come out pretty hard. It's always fun playing this team. It's usually a pretty good show."
Keith's minutes sky high: Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith is again logging more ice time than any other player in the League, and it's not really even close. He comes into tonight's game averaging 30:08 a game, the only player in the League over the 30 mark.
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville was asked on Wednesday if it's hard to take Keith off the ice.
"Yes," he said, smiling. "Especially now that we're down (Brian Campbell) on the back end. (Keith's) minutes are a little higher than we'd like right now, but he wants to play, he can play and he can handle the minutes. You just have to make sure he maintains his energy level in between games, so it's something you need to monitor."
The only game the Hawks have won convincingly, at Columbus, Keith's minutes were cut back considerably. Otherwise, they're all been over 30 or pushing 30.

"You'd like to have some days where maybe you can take it off a little bit and we've only had one of those games so far," Quenneville said. "You've got to try and win that game that's out there, and he gives us a great chance."
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