Blackhawks in good shape heading into Christmas break

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DALLAS – The Blackhawks left Dallas not happy about their loss to the Dallas Stars, a game in which they were in until the final 20 minutes began.

Outside of that, however, in assessing their game to this point of the season, the Blackhawks don’t mind where they’re at right now.

The Blackhawks enter the Christmas break with 44 points, which is good for third in the very difficult Central Division. The Stars, who beat them 4-0 on Tuesday night, sit atop the division with 54 points and St. Louis is in second place with 46 points. The Blackhawks have been busy through December. They’ve also been successful, winning seven of their last 10 games.

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“We’ve had good stretches here,” coach Joel Quenneville said following Tuesday’s game. “There’s progress in certain areas, some balance starting to come out. Some young guys – I’m encouraged by Phil Danault out here and [Dennis Rasmussen] has been a nice addition. The Russian line with Kaner’s been basically the highlight for the start of the year. [Corey Crawford’s] on a great run right now. It’s been OK.”

Well, it’s been better than OK lately. Now the Blackhawks’ start was best described as OK. The team would have one or two good games, then one or two bad games. Consistency was an issue; so was getting more balance and scoring throughout the lines. Quenneville said not too long ago that he was surprised it was taking so long to get more team chemistry.

Then things started clicking. The Blackhawks, thanks to great goaltending and scoring other than from the second liners, started stringing together some victories. Crawford did his part; entering the break he’s won seven of his last nine starts, and that includes three shutouts.

“The last two, three weeks have been good,” Brent Seabrook said. “Really good.”

Yes they have. Heading into Tuesday’s game in Dallas, the Blackhawks probably were wary of going into the break; they had a full head of steam going and probably didn’t want to stop the forward motion. But by the third period on Tuesday it was evident this team needs a respite.

[MORE: Patrick Sharp leads Stars to shutout victory over Blackhawks]

So the Blackhawks will take a breather. They’ll get rested and they could also get a bit healthier. Quenneville is still optimistic Marian Hossa, who’s missed the last two games with an upper-body injury, could be ready for Sunday’s game against Carolina. He hopes defenseman Rob Scuderi, who took a redirected puck to the face on Tuesday, will be OK by then, too.

The Blackhawks would’ve liked a better ending to this latest stretch but, as big pictures go, they’re in pretty good shape.

“We didn’t quit match in the third, and the score ended up being pretty lopsided [vs. the Stars]. But all in all, we’ve been doing a lot of good things lately and we’ve played a ton of hockey. Not using that as an excuse, but in some way I think the four days we have coming up will be good for us,” Jonathan Toews said. “We’ve got to be ready to come back and play with more energy in the next one than we did [Tuesday].”

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