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Blackhawks Believe Division Title Still In Reach

Sunday, 02.22.2009 / 3:58 PM / Features
By Dan Rosen  - NHL.com senior writer
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Blackhawks Believe Division Title Still In Reach
Hawks still eyeing division title; Brouwer\'s big break; Mule returns to Detroit.
Even at this time of the season, most players will tell you they're not looking at the standings. Normally, it's a lie.

Duncan Keith apparently can't tell one.

"Oh yeah, I look at them, especially this year," the Chicago Blackhawks defenseman told NHL.com. "We're right in the thick of things and we're doing well. In years past, I didn't always look at the standings because I didn't want to see how bad we were doing. This year, we're always looking to see where we're at and what other teams are doing in our conference."

For the most part, Keith likes what he sees. The Blackhawks have been second in the Central Division and fourth in the Western Conference for the bulk of the season. They entered play Friday with 74 points, 10 behind the Detroit Red Wings.

The Blackhawks haven't given up hope of catching the Central-leading Wings and securing either a first or second seed for the playoffs.

"There is no reason why we can't think that," said Keith. "If we keep playing better we can try to catch them. That is the mentality you have to take. Obviously it's not an easy thing to do. We'd like home-ice advantage."

As it stands now, the Hawks would have it, and they have most definitely earned it over the course of the last three weeks.

Following the All-Star break, Chicago embarked on an eight-game road trip. They returned home for one game and now are back on the road for three more, completing the swing Saturday in Dallas.

They entered the weekend 8-3 since the break (7-3 on the road), earning 16 of a possible 22 points to keep a safe distance from current fifth-seed Vancouver and within somewhat realistic striking distance from the Wings and San Jose Sharks.

"We wanted to have that mentality to focus on each game that we came into and I think we did a good job with that," Keith said. "If we would have looked at it as an 18-day road trip it might have been a bit overwhelming. We're a young team, we enjoy being with one another and that also helps. That's part of our success."

More on the Hawks -- With Patrick Sharp out at least two more weeks with a lower-body injury, Troy Brouwer is trying to elevate his game to prove he's worth playing left wing on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

That's where coach Joel Quenneville had Brouwer this week and he managed an assist and five shots in Tuesday's 5-3 win against Tampa Bay and four shots while playing a season-high 19:37 in Thursday's 4-0 win at Florida.

Brouwer, who has three points in the last three games, told the Chicago Tribune earlier this week that Sharp's injury is a great opportunity for him. So far, it looks as though he's taking advantage of it.

"It's all part of the depth that we have," Keith said. "When that opportunity knocks, a guy like Troy Brouwer can step in and show what he can do."


Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com.


Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Staff Writer