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Kings feel Blackhawks’ recommitment to defense

Hawks center Jonathan Toews (right) celebrates his goal with Viktor Stalberg second period Saturday Los Angeles. | Mark J. Terrill~AP

Hawks center Jonathan Toews (right) celebrates his goal with Viktor Stalberg in the second period Saturday in Los Angeles. | Mark J. Terrill~AP

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Updated: December 28, 2011 10:15AM



LOS ANGELES — For all of the Blackhawks’ talk of learning from their erratic play during this six-game Western trip, a desire to be sound defensively has to be No. 1.

It’s what Joel Quenneville has stressed, seemingly daily, since he became head coach in 2008.

And it’s what helped the Hawks finish off their circus trip on a positive note with a 2-1 victory against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on Saturday night. It also helped that goalie Corey Crawford had arguably his best game of the trip.

Andrew Brunette and Jonathan Toews scored for the Hawks, who finished the trip at .500. Duncan Keith had two assists. Crawford, getting the start on back-in-back days for the first time this season, stopped 26 shots.

“It was probably in some ways our best game of the trip,” Toews said. “We knew it was going to be a tight one, and we knew what we had to do to win. You come on the road and you play a team like that and they kind of use the home crowd to play with energy at home. We were smart. We didn’t give up too many chances against.”

After ugly losses to the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, the Hawks say they’ve realized how a commitment to checking enhances their puck-possession style. For the most part, they played that way against the Kings, who have a bevy of offensively talented players.

“We talked about being consistent in that type of effort or playing that style of a game and we got rewarded [against the Anaheim Ducks and Kings],” Quenneville said. “It was a very competitive game tonight and Crawford made some big saves.”

The Kings did have good shifts, including one that led to Jarret Stoll’s game-tying, unassisted goal in the second period. But they had only six shots in the opening 20 minutes. The Hawks also missed numerous quality chances.

“That was another good game by us,” Crawford said. “We played well. Guys were coming back breaking up plays. It was just overall a good game, and another a good game offensively too.”

Icy concerns

The Hawks are used to less-than-stellar ice conditions at the United Center. But the issue is by no means localized.

‘‘I don’t think the ice is too good at any rinks right now,’’ defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said of playing in San Jose. ‘‘The ice was actually pretty good in Edmonton. . . . [But] the ice is pretty much bad everywhere nowadays, at least for me.’’

Forward Patrick Kane feels the same way.

‘‘The best ice is like out here [at the Anaheim Ducks’ practice rink] or the practice ice in Columbus,’’ Kane said. ‘‘It’s funny how that happens. You kind of get used to it, I guess. It seems like there are a lot of bounces and some different things that can go either way. As a player, when you’re on the ice like that, you have to be aware for anything to happen.’’

In and out

Winger Daniel Carcillo was a healthy scratch for the first time this season as defenseman John Scott played on the fourth line with Jamal Mayers at center and Bryan Bickell at the other wing. Scott had been scratched against the Ducks after playing in eight consecutive games on defense.

Carcillo had played most of the season on a line with Kane, but he was dropped to the fourth line against the Ducks. He said in Anaheim that he was unhappy with his play.

‘‘It would be nice to help the team and get some scoring from different areas, but it’s been a tough stretch,’’ he said.



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