Blackhawks make their points

Tribune staff reporter

They did exactly what they had to do. The Blackhawks needed to win both home games over the weekend against St. Louis and Columbus, and getting a point at New Jersey was just gravy.

No style points are awarded for aesthetically pleasing performances. The two points are the same no matter how they are obtained.

So the Hawks will deposit their two from Sunday night's 1-0 victory over the Blue Jackets and move along to a five-game trip that begins Thursday night against another struggling team, the Western Conference cellar-dwelling Phoenix Coyotes.

Until then, the lack of sustained offensive pressure—forget goals, the Hawks are having a hard time just establishing themselves in the other team's end—and the tightrope walk killing so many penalties every game can sit on the back burner.

"We're trying to do a better job defensively," Hawks goaltender Brian Boucher said. "I wish I had a few more [wins] under my belt."

Boucher picked up his first win of the season with a 28-save performance. He once again had to keep his teammates in the game in a first period in which Columbus had three power plays and the Hawks failed to record a shot until 10 minutes 37 seconds had been played.

The lone goal came at 7:04 of the second period when Lasse Kukkonen beat Columbus' Fredrik Norrena from the high slot for his third goal of the year.

The Hawks received a scare at the end of the second period. Columbus' Nikolai Zherdev collided with defenseman Jassen Cullimore in the Hawks' slot. Zherdev was spun around, his left leg whirled in the air and his skate caught Rene Bourque in the neck.

Bourque immediately left the ice and was taken by stretcher to the University of Chicago Hospital, where team officials said he was in stable condition.

"Everybody was concerned because he came off in a hurry," Hawks coach Trent Yawney said. "But we know that everything is OK and it's not life-threatening."

Since giving up three power play goals to the Islanders on Halloween, the Hawks have killed off 27 straight power plays. Sunday Columbus was 0-for-8 with the man advantage.

"The penalty kill is doing a nice job blocking shots," Yawney said.

The Hawks were credited with 22 blocked shots Sunday, seven coming from Duncan Keith, who logged 5:36 of his team-high 22:35 of ice time killing penalties. Cullimore and Kukkonen were also credited with three blocks each.

"We had too many penalties, but Boucher was big," Kukkonen said. "We have to cut out the penalties."

NHL coaches have a theory that the last home game before a long trip is actually the first game of the trip. If that's the case, the Hawks have begun what has historically been a brutal trip on the right foot.


Sunday was the first time the Hawks had seen Columbus defenseman Rostislav Klesla since his hit on Tuomo Ruutu in the preseason. Ruutu missed the first 10 games because of a sprained knee from the hit. Klesla was suspended for two games and missed the home opener when the Hawks hosted Columbus. He played 20:06 and, despite a couple of attempts by Hawks players to exact some revenge, the night was without incident. … Sunday was the fourth time in 15 games Columbus has been shut out. … Boucher is 4-0-3 against Columbus lifetime with a 2.07 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. … With 19 shots on goal, the Hawks failed to get 20 for the second straight game. They had 18 in Friday's 3-1 win over St. Louis.

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