CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks are taking a more direct approach to generating offense without injured star forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
So far, it’s working.
Rookie Jeremy Morin scored and set up Patrick Sharp’s go-ahead goal in the second period, and injury-depleted Chicago held on to defeat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Sunday afternoon for its third straight win.
The Blackhawks ground out the victory despite playing without Toews’ powerful skating and Kane’s puck-handling skills for the third game. Forward Brandon Saad was a last-minute scratch.
“We’ve simplified our game quite a bit,” said Sharp, who scored his team-leading 33rd goal. “We’re not trying to make as many plays offensively. We’re battling hard.
“Usually when you battle hard individually and as a team, good things happen. We’ve raised our battle level lately, but we’re just keeping things simple. Getting pucks in, getting pucks out.”
And some younger players, such as Morin, are getting more ice time and showing just how deep defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago is.
“I’m just taking it day by day every time I’m in the lineup, trying to make the most of it,” Morin said. “We’re comfortable out there.
“I’m just playing the game right now and letting things come.”
Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith also scored for Chicago, which is two points behind Colorado for second place in the Central Division and home ice in the first round of the playoffs. The Blackhawks have three games left. The Avalanche, who lost in a shootout to Pittsburgh on Sunday night, have four games remaining.
Toews, Chicago’s captain, sat out his third game with an upper-body injury suffered last Sunday when he was drilled by Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik. Kane, who has resumed skating, missed his ninth with a lower-body injury suffered against the Blues on March 19.
Toews and Kane are expected to return for the start of the playoffs.
Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Sobotka connected for St. Louis, which lost its second straight and remained two points behind idle Boston for the NHL’s overall point lead and race for the Presidents’ Trophy.
Flyers 5, Sabres 2
In Philadelphia, Brayden Schenn scored two goals as the Flyers broke a four-game losing streak with a win over lowly Buffalo.
Blue Jackets 4, Islanders 0
In Columbus, Boone Jenner and Mark Letestu each had a goal and an assist, and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 31 shots for his second shutout of the week.
Penguins 3, Avalanche 2 (SO)
In Denver, Jussi Jokinen skated across the front of the crease and roofed a shot over sprawling goalie Semyon Varlamov to give Pittsburgh a shootout win.
Oilers 4, Ducks 2
In Edmonton, Taylor Hall had a goal and two assists, and the Oilers beat Pacific Division-leading Anaheim.
Panthers 3, Stars 2
In Sunrise, Florida, Sean Bergenheim scored with 4:31 left to break a third-period tie as the Panthers broke a five-game losing streak in a win over Dallas.