Blackhawks

Blackhawks

Despite the fact the Blackhawks were already hovering near the top of the West, theyve moved into a tie for the lead with the idle Wild thanks to two factors that had been preventing them from playing to their full potential.

For the third straight game, they got offensive contributions from players not named Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa or Patrick Kane. And for the first time since before the Circus Trip, they set the tone early and controlled the tempo most of the way at home. After all, they trailed at some point in all four home games since returning, going 2-1-1.

Ray Emery continued looking sharp in net -- and after originally thinking Corey Crawford might get a chance for a start in one of these two weekend games -- Im starting to think Joel Quenneville keeps going with Emery Sunday against Calgary and Tuesday in Pittsburgh before Crawford gets a shot Wednesday back at the United Center versus his hometown team, Montreal.

The special teams continued rolling the 1-for-3 power play improves their marksmanship to 18-for-59 the last 17 games. Another perfect night on the penalty kill brings that unit to 25-for-27 in the nine games since beating the Ducks in Anaheim the day after Thanksgiving.

The signs are pointing up. This team remains healthy, save for the Daniel Carcillo upper-body injury that the coach says isnt serious. They took it to a vulnerable team Friday night, and will try to hit the repeat button against a team in a similar state Sunday evening.