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Quenneville’s back, but Hawks still working on cure



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Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

A refreshed Joel Quenne­ville returned to a rejuvenated Blackhawks team Wednesday — a testament to the recuperative powers of modern medicine and six points in four NHL games.

‘‘It’s great to be back,’’ an upbeat Quenneville said after the Hawks’ one-hour practice before flying to Nashville, Tenn. ‘‘I was on [injured ­reserve] for a week. We’ll call it an upper-body injury, and it’s all good to go.

‘‘The only pain I was in for the last week was sitting in the hospital watching games. But it was a great result the last couple of games [victories over the Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues] and a great ending in St. Louis — a lot of momentum coming out of that game.’’

But while everyone is glad Quenneville has fully recovered from his ulcer, tonight’s game against the Predators at Bridgestone Arena will go a long way toward determining how quickly the Hawks will be out of danger.

The Hawks (31-23-6, 68 points), who had lost six of eight games before Quenneville was hospitalized, won three of four while he was out. With 22 games to play, they’re among seven teams separated by two points in the fifth through 11th spots in the Western Conference standings. The top eight make the playoffs.

The Hawks’ five games with the rival Predators this season have been emblematic of their uneven season after winning the Stanley Cup last June. They’ve played some excellent hockey against the Predators, with encouraging performances from unheralded players (such as Corey Crawford and Bryan Bickell). But they’ve lost third-period leads in all three defeats, including shootout losses of 4-3 and 3-2 in Nashville.

The Hawks’ shootout victory over the Penguins on Patrick Kane’s goal Sunday at the United Center and their come-from-behind victory over the Blues — rallying from a 2-0 deficit in the second period to win 5-3 — told Quenneville the Hawks have sustainable momentum heading into a stretch of four games against teams ahead of them in the Western standings. The Hawks play the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday at the United Center, visit the Minnesota Wild on Monday and host the Calgary Flames on Wednesday.

‘‘The momentum came [with] Kaner’s goal — that was huge,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘The recipe of being fully engaged the last 40 minutes in St. Louis . . . that’s where we all have to be at. It lets us know we value everybody’s contribution, whether it’s six minutes or 60 minutes. It put us in a good spot. We’ve got four games against teams in the same airspace we’re at. It’s a huge stretch and a great test. Let’s gather that momentum and keep it going.’’

Quenneville’s return gave the Hawks an additional boost at Wednesday’s practice.

‘‘He seems like nothing even happened,’’ said Crawford, who will start in goal tonight. ‘‘He’s a good coach, and we’re happy to have him back. . . . He’s excited, so that’s good.’’

But while Quenneville’s return was the story of the day, it’s back to hockey tonight.

‘‘I think we’ve got enough incentive as it is,’’ forward Troy Brouwer said. ‘‘It doesn’t matter who’s here or who’s not here; we need to win games.

‘‘We all know the dire situation we’re in, trying to make the playoffs and having to win every game. Having [Quenne-ville] back just brings a little familiarity to the group — line calls, play calls, stuff like that. Now that he’s back, he expects us to continue playing like we have been.’’

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