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First-place Blackhawks still searching for an identity

Jonathan Toews Hawks play 19 their next 26 games United Center.  |  Dale MacMillan~Getty Images

Jonathan Toews and the Hawks play 19 of their next 26 games at the United Center. | Dale MacMillan~Getty Images

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at Blackhawks

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

Updated: December 30, 2011 8:21AM

If the Blackhawks are trying to figure out exactly who they are, it might be in their best interest to continue their existential crisis.

Patrick Kane said after practice Monday the Hawks were still searching for their identity. But the center was encouraged that the team has been able to hold on to its place at the top of the Western Conference while looking.

“We’re still figuring ourselves out a little bit, so that’s always a concern,” Kane said. “It’s going to be like that for a little bit, especially with a new team. You’re always trying to figure out your best lineup.”

Despite working through some very painful kinks — including an alarming 9-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers — the Hawks salvaged a schizophrenic road trip with back-to-back wins in Southern California and returned to find themselves exactly where they were when they departed: atop the West.

“We got ourselves out of that hole and turned around with two big wins,” Kane said. “A lot of us can play better, and that’s a good thing going forward if you end up 3-3 on a road trip like that and can still play better.”

That said, Jonathan Toews held to his belief that being a .500 team for any stretch isn’t what the team envisions, and he saw the trip as a study in what happens given the Hawks’ effort on a nightly basis.

“We saw what happened when we didn’t play so well, when we didn’t prepare the right way — it wasn’t pretty,” Toews said. “But we proved to ourselves if we’re ready to have the right priorities as a team and as individuals and we play the right way things are going to go our way. We have a lot of talent, we have a lot of skill, so it’s about putting our team game together and making things happen.”

There are concerns, of course. Only the Toronto Maple Leafs have allowed more goals, and every team in the West entered Monday with games in hand on the Hawks.

But it bodes well that the team found a way to right the ship and grind out two wins after three consecutive road losses and has 19 of its next 26 games at the United Center, where it is 7-1-2.

And even though some of the players say the Hawks are still trying to find an identity, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’d trade places with last year’s team, which underwent a similar search while on the outside looking in.

“I don’t think [a team’s identity] stops changing until the end of the year,” Toews said. “We know what kind of team we want to be. We’re a skilled, fast-skating team, we can be physical.

“There’s guys in this locker room that can do it all. We’ve got the guys we need, all the tools that we need on the ice and the personality and the character in the locker room. So it’s just up to us to stick together as a team and make sure every single guy is ready to go out there and play.”

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