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St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock’s take: Quality minutes fuel Blackhawks’ success

Corey Crawford Niklas HjalmarssDavid PerrT.J. Oshie

Corey Crawford, Niklas Hjalmarsson, David Perron, T.J. Oshie

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The facts: 7:30, CSN, 720-AM.

Updated: March 2, 2013 12:44AM

ST. LOUIS — The Blackhawks are the stingiest team in the Western Conference, allowing 37 goals through their first 19 games. They’re the second-highest scoring team in the conference, with 61 goals. They have the top-ranked penalty-killing unit in the conference, as well.

But it’s their relentlessness that’s drawing rave reviews from opposing coaches.

St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was asked what it would take for a team to finally beat the Hawks in regulation, and his answer was, “60 minutes.”

“Play 40, you’re dead,” he said. “We played 30 [in the first meeting], it wasn’t good enough. You’ve got to play 60, you’ve got to play 60 the right way, then see where it goes. Because that’s the reason they’re winning — they play more minutes than other teams. Maybe the game’s up for grabs in the third period, but in the third period against Edmonton, they always have the puck. If you always have the puck, you’re going to win a lot of hockey games. They just play more minutes than any team in the West. I would say L.A. is starting to catch up, probably Anaheim’s right there. But they’re the team that plays more minutes, more quality minutes than anybody in the West.”

Oilers coach Ralph Krueger learned that on Monday night, when the Hawks rallied from a 2-1 third-period deficit to win 3-2 in overtime.

“They really are an amazingly powerful team,” Krueger said. “They’re very, very strong on the puck. They never let up at all. We had that long stretch in the third period without any whistles. That’s the most pressure we felt from anybody this year.”

Golden anniversary

Three years ago Thursday, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook won a gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics for Team Canada, beating Patrick Kane’s American squad 3-2 in overtime. Toews had the game’s first goal.

“It’s crazy it’s been three years since then already,” Toews said. “I still seem to be riding the wave from that. … That’s a huge feat and a huge honor. [I was] very privileged to be a part of that team, especially in Canada at the Olympics. Pretty amazing experience.”

Roster report

Brandon Bollig got back in the lineup against the Blues. He took Jamal Mayers’ spot on the fourth line. Michael Frolik moved from wing to center, while Marcus Kruger again filled in at second-line center for the injured Dave Bolland.

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