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Blackhawks rookies have much to savor in victory over Sabres

Michael Frolik leaps over Mike Weber as Jhonas Enroth makes save second period. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Michael Frolik leaps over Mike Weber as Jhonas Enroth makes a save in the second period. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 21, 2012 8:33AM



It was the logical outcome, considering how poorly the Buffalo Sabres have played on the road and how well the Blackhawks have been playing recently.

But it’s how it happened that matters.

Jonathan Toews scored two power-play goals, Andrew Shaw, Dave Bolland and Jimmy Hayes each had a goal and an assist and Marian Hossa also scored as the Hawks blew past the Sabres in a 6-2 victory Wednesday at the United Center.

The Hawks’ defense also was active as Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook had two assists apiece. Corey Crawford made 25 saves.

“Not everything’s going to go your way every single night, and you’ve got to find ways to win games,” Toews said. “Whether it’s a struggling team or a team that’s playing their game, we always focus on what we have to do, and we’ve been doing that much better.”

Shaw and Hayes continue to be big sparks for the Hawks, who regained the Central Division lead with 62 points.

It’s too early to tell if they’re long-term solutions up front, but their contributions are looking less like spur-of-the-moment boosts from rookies. Instead, they’re looking more at home as the points pile up.

“We know we’re trench guys,” said Shaw, who has five goals and six points in eight games. “We come in and work every night. We don’t want to get sent back down [to the Rockford IceHogs]. We’re just trying to prove ourselves and show that we belong here.”

The rout also showed why the Hawks are buyers and the Sabres, who have one of the league’s highest payrolls and had high hopes in the summer, should be sellers at the trade deadline.

While certain Sabres such as center Derek Roy might seem attractive to the Hawks, Shaw and Hayes keep making compelling cases that they can fill holes. They’re picking up the offensive slack with Patrick Sharp injured.

Hayes nearly had a Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist, fight), but Patrick Kaleta backed down from Hayes after landing a tough, high hit on him.

Hayes got two minutes for roughing, and the Sabres scored on the power play as Jason Pominville got his second goal of the game at 3:28 in the second period to tie it at 2. But the Hawks responded with four unanswered goals, the first by Hayes on a nice feed from Andrew Brunette.

“You have to find a way to get it back,” said Hayes, who dropped his gloves only to watch Kaleta drop to the ice without a punch thrown. “[Kaleta] plays a hard game. I’m going to play a hard game right back.”

The Sabres didn’t start star goalie Ryan Miller, who has had a rough season, leaving the Hawks to pepper Jhonas Enroth (29 saves). Buffalo has lost 10 in a row on the road, and a remodeling seems inevitable.

The Hawks, on the other hand, are 4-0-1 in their last five games as Hayes and Shaw make headlines.

“[The rookies are] playing great hockey,” Toews said. “We know that if they keep playing that way, the goals are going to come for guys like [Shaw], [Hayes] and even [Ben] Smith, who’s playing good hockey.”



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