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Teravainen's progress among Blackhawks' X-factors

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks have been down this path twice before, having attempted to defend their 2010 and 2013 Stanley Cup championships with a reworked roster the following season.

Neither effort was successful, but they're hopeful the third time is the charm in another effort to hoist the Cup in back-to-back seasons. No team has accomplished the feat since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998, but the Blackhawks go into this season with a fair shot.

Here are three X-factors that will help determine the outcome of that effort:

It's Teuvo Teravainen's time: The Blackhawks are counting on a breakout season from Teravainen, who used the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs as a sneak peek into his vast stockpile of skill.

Teravainen, 21, had four goals, six assists and a plus-2 rating in 18 postseason games, playing primarily right wing on the third line with center Antoine Vermette and left wing Patrick Sharp. The line became one of Chicago's most dangerous forward groups as the playoffs progressed.

"He's at that stage where you'd like to see him keep getting better," coach Joel Quenneville said of Teravainen. "We like what we've seen. He's had a nice progression and nice [training camp]."

Quenneville also liked what he saw from Teravainen in the later stages of the playoffs last season, starting with his assist on Vermette's overtime goal to defeat the Anaheim Ducks in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final.

He followed it up by scoring a goal in Game 5 of that series, and his confidence continued to rise from there.

In the Stanley Cup Final, the Tampa Bay Lightning quickly learned not to leave Teravainen alone; he scored the game-tying goal late in the third period of Game 1 and set up Vermette 1:58 later for the game-winner.

That performance earned him the nickname "Finnish Cold" from Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa, but he wasn't finished. Teravainen had a goal and an assist in the remaining five Cup Final games and enters the season with hopes of adding much more to the mix.

He likely will fill Vermette's role as center of the third line to start out the season, but Teravainen is flexible enough to play any of the three forward spots on any line.

Newfound motivation from new faces: The roster retooling this offseason was the most extensive the Blackhawks have been through since after they won the championship in 2010, when nearly half of the roster that won the Cup was either traded or not re-signed.

This time, they're returning without seven players who skated in the Cup-clinching Game 6 win against the Lightning and nine who were listed on the postseason roster. Taking over those roles will be three veterans acquired in trades plus a couple of young, unproven players with high skill levels.

The veterans are center Artem Anisimov, defenseman Trevor Daley and forward Ryan Garbutt, and the talented young players are forward Marko Dano and left wing Artemi Panarin.

The Blackhawks' core group, which has played a lot of minutes the past three seasons, is counting on the new names for a lift emotionally and physically.

"Those new players could keep us driving during the season, when it gets a little tough for us sometimes," Hossa said. "Those guys are excited to be here and they're going to bring lots of energy."

Working overtime: Quenneville said the Blackhawks' main goal is to qualify for the playoffs, which is tougher than it sounds in the Western Conference, and then they'll worry about winning the Cup again.

Every point matters, but they're especially valuable in the Central Division. All seven Central teams had 90 or more points last season, and some appear to have improved during the offseason.

It remains to be seen how the NHL's new 3-on-3 overtime format will play out during regular-season games, but the Blackhawks have looked good in it during the preseason.

Skill players will have even more open ice to set up plays, and Chicago still has a collection of high-end players.

The Blackhawks have a two-time winner of the William M. Jennings Trophy in goalie Corey Crawford, and Quenneville can send out three winners of the Conn Smythe Trophy to join him: defenseman Duncan Keith, center Jonathan Toews and right wing Patrick Kane.

That's something few, if any, opponents can match, and that's without mentioning Hossa, Teravainen, Panarin, Dano, Daley or Brent Seabrook.

"Yeah, we've got some options for OT," Crawford said. "I'm sure we'll be set for that."

Last season, the Blackhawks were 4-3 in regular-season games that ended in overtime and went 9-4 in their shootouts. It will be interesting to see if they can match or exceed those 13 extra points under the new OT format.

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