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'Hawks back on track after win over Sabres

The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- After a shaky start to the season, the Chicago Blackhawks seem to have steadied their ship and are starting to look a lot like last year's Stanley Cup championship club.

Although coach Joel Quenneville would like to see a bit more offense, he will still take Saturday night's 2-1 win over the still winless Buffalo Sabres at the United Center.

"Our biggest problem right now scoring goals is we're missing the net," Quenneville said. "The second chances are the ones that go in in our league.

"It's comparable to last year, we played a lot of tight games early in the year. There's no easy nights in the league with the parity and closeness. You can't take shifts off and you can't take nights off, for sure."

But, the veteran coach still likes what he sees as his team improved to 3-1-1 on the young season.

"I think the generating of quality and quantity and flow of the game in five games is exactly what we want," Quenneville said.

Buffalo, on the other hand, has gone from frustrated to almost desperate. The Sabres dropped to 0-5-1 and have scored just six total goals in as many games this season.

"We can't make any mistakes," said losing Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. "That's the way the league is going, the scoring trend is downward. We're going to have to earn our goals and find ways to score. If you can't score in a traditional way, you have to find unique ways."

Penalties also continue to be a thorn in Buffalo's side, as the Sabres were whistled six times for 12 minutes, giving them 70 minutes of time in the penalty box already this season.

"We just can't get ourselves in all these situations over the course of a night," Miller said. "We've had a handful of games so far where it's been all different situations, the way we put ourselves in a bad situation. Tonight was the penalties. When you're down two goals, especially on a team that's won the Stanley Cup and knows how to shut it down (you can't do that)."

Patrick Kane's power-play goal with 25 seconds left in the second period proved to be just enough insurance for the Blackhawks, complementing Ben Smith's first period goal.

Kane's goal was his fourth in the Blackhawks' first five games, a career first for the seven-year NHL veteran.

"I still think we can get better, which is the exciting thing," Kane said of the Hawks' power-play prowess thus far. "The biggest thing is we know where each other is going to be so we know what we're going to do before we get the puck.

"Then we converge the net and try to make plays off a scramble and loose pucks seems to be when we get the most success, not really setups or set plays that we have, just playing hockey and when there's a rebound, attacking the net. That's what we did tonight."

It was the second win in as many nights for the Blackhawks and extended a streak that has seen them not lose at home to the Sabres since Jan. 10, 2007.

Buffalo avoided its second shutout of the young season when Drew Stafford scored at 11:49 of the third period, just the Sabres' sixth goal in as many games this season.

"I thought tonight we had more chances from more lines, it wasn't just our top line," Buffalo coach Ron Rolston said, trying to find a highlight in the game. "We had contributions from other lines, which we have to have, and we haven't had that the last couple of games, so that's a positive for us."

Chicago pounded Miller throughout the first period, outshooting the Sabres 20-6, then followed that with a 16-10 advantage in the second period before Buffalo edged the Hawks 13-4 in the third period.

After getting a rest Friday night against the Islanders, No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford was back in the net for the Blackhawks. Crawford stopped 28 of Buffalo's 29 shots and Miller stopped 38 of Chicago's 40 shots.

NOTES: Attendance was 21,261. ... Patrick Sharp played in his 600th career game. He's also one goal from 200 in his NHL tenure. ... Late Friday night, the Blackhawks recalled forward Brandon Pirri from the Rockford (Ill.) IceHogs and sent forward Jimmy Hayed to Rockford to open a roster spot for Pirri. ... So far, so good: The Hawks still have yet to lose any many-games to injuries thus far. By comparison, Buffalo came into Saturday having already lost 26 man-games in its first five games. ... Buffalo's Kevin Porter was a healthy pregame scratch, keeping him one short of his 200th career NHL game. ... Buffalo still leads the overall series (52-46-13-1) with Chicago. ... Because of the lockout-shortened schedule last season, Saturday marked the first time the two teams met since Jan. 18, 2012 (a 6-2 Blackhawks win in Chicago). ... Saturday marked the 25th anniversary of the last time the Blackhawks have scored 10 goals in a game (Oct. 12, 1988 vs. Winnipeg). It also was the fourth anniversary of the biggest comeback in team history when the Blackhawks overcame a 5-0 deficit to beat Calgary 6-5 in overtime in 2009.
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