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ing a more direct approach to generating off
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks are taking a more direct approach to generating offence without injured star forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. So far, its working. Rookie Jeremy Morin scored and set up Patrick Sharps go-ahead goal in the second period, and injury-depleted Chicago held on to defeat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Sunday afternoon for its third straight win. The Blackhawks ground out the victory despite playing without Toews powerful skating and Kanes puck-handling skills for the third game. Forward Brandon Saad was a last-minute scratch. "Weve simplified our game quite a bit," said Sharp, who scored his team-leading 33rd goal. "Were not trying to make as many plays offensively. Were battling hard. "Usually when you battle hard individually and as a team, good things happen. Weve raised our battle level lately, but were just keeping things simple. Getting pucks in, getting pucks out." And some younger players, such as Morin, are getting more ice time and showing just how deep defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago is. "Im just taking it day by day every time Im in the lineup, trying to make the most of it," Morin said. "Were comfortable out there. "Im just playing the game right now and letting things come." Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith also scored for Chicago, which is two points behind Colorado for second place in the Central Division and home ice in the first round of the playoffs. The Blackhawks have three games left. The Avalanche, who lost in a shootout to Pittsburgh on Sunday night, have four games remaining. Toews, Chicagos captain, sat out his third game with an upper-body injury suffered last Sunday when he was drilled by Pittsburgh defenceman Brooks Orpik. Kane, who has resumed skating, missed his ninth with a lower-body injury suffered against the Blues on March 19. Toews and Kane are expected to return for the start of the playoffs. Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Sobotka connected for St. Louis, which lost its second straight and remained two points behind idle Boston for the NHLs overall point lead and race for the Presidents Trophy. Both the Blues and Bruins have four games remaining. Chicagos Corey Crawford made 21 saves and St. Louis Brian Elliott made 31. "We had moments where we did everything to ourselves and gave them opportunities really out of nothing," Elliott said. "Its a wake-up call right now and weve got to figure it out." The Blues skated without two of their top forwards, including leading goal scorer Alexander Steen who missed his third game with an upper-body injury. Vladimir Tarasenko has been sidelined since mid-March with a hand injury. The Blues, who were shut out by Colorado on Saturday, have scored two goals or fewer in eight of their past 10 games. St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said his team is looking a "little bit tired" and needs to "find a way to re-energize" and start skating, buzzing and shooting again in the offensive zone. "Our offensive game is based on offensive energy," Hitchcock said. "When we dont have it, we dont have near enough zone time. "We score by volume (of chances) and when we dont get the volume we dont score. The last couple of games we havent gotten the volume we normally get." Blues defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk agreed. "A lot of our offence comes when were grinding away down low," he said. "When were shooting, theres rebounds and were beating guys to pucks." Chicago dominated territorially in the chippy first period and outshot the Blues 11-3, but trailed 1-0 after 20 minutes. Schwartzs power-play goal at 1:57 of the first opened the scoring. After taking Brenden Morrows pass, Schwartz fired from the left circle, but his shot hit traffic in front of the net and bounded back to him. His second shot got through the screen and beat Crawford low. Crawford made a pad save on Patrik Berglunds short-handed breakaway attempt midway through the first. Elliott stopped several prime Chicago chances in the final minutes of the first as Chicago turned up the pressure. With 1:30 to go, he blocked a point-blank short-handed shot by Marian Hossa, who rocketed in alone past Blues defenceman Alex Pietrangelo. Morin tied it at 1 at 8:34 of the second, when he drove to the net and pushed in a rebound of Bryan Bickells shot. Bickell had picked off a pass at centre ice before cruising back into the Blues zone and firing from the left circle. Sharp put Chicago ahead 2-1 with 27 seconds left in the second when he completed a 2-on-1 break with Morin. Morin carried the puck down the right side, then passed to Sharp who fired a shot past Elliotts stick side from the left circle. Kruger made it 3-1 just 56 seconds into the third. Elliott got a piece of Joakim Nordstroms shot from the right wing, but the puck trickled to the left goal post. Kruger punched it in. Sobotka cut it to 3-2 with 2:02 left when his flipping shot from the left wing knuckled under Crawfords glove. Smith scored into an empty-net with 3.3 seconds left. NOTES: Blackhawks D Johnny Oduya sat out his third game with a lower-body injury. Healthy scratches for Chicago were D David Rundblad and forwards Teuvo Teravainen and Matt Carey. ... Blues scratches were defencemen Ian Cole and Jordan Leopold and F Dmitrij Jaskin. Athletics Jerseys China . -- The defending Canadian womens curling champions squandered an opportunity to take sole possession of first place in the standings Tuesday at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. Oakland Athletics Gear . The 155th edition of the Plate for Canadian-foaled three-year-olds, the oldest continuously run stakes race in North America, will be televised live on TSN in HD (High Definition) in a special presentation from 4:30 – 6:00 pm ET. Post time is 5:38 pm. https://www.cheapathleticsonline.com/ . Giants manager Bruce Bochy told The Associated Press of the decision before NL West-leading San Francisco opened a 10-game homestand Monday night with the first of three games against second-place Arizona. Wholesale Athletics Jerseys . And follow TSN.ca right through Deadline Day for all the updates. From Pierre LeBrun While Anaheim GM Bob Murray said earlier this season he was not going to trade Jonas Hiller despite the fact hes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, some sources have told TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun that Murray might be willing to move another goalie. Oakland Athletics Pro Shop . Unfortunately for the Cleveland Cavaliers, James Harden was in the building.SOCHI, Russia – Mike Babcock has to hope the constant tinkering is just about done. The Canadian head coach has been shuffling his deck of impressive cards from the moment his team touched down here in Russia, searching for the right mixture that will yield a second consecutive gold medal. Babcock will employ his fourth different set of forward combinations at Wednesdays quarterfinal against Latvia. Only one line gained any kind of traction during the preliminary round, a trio that includes Jonathan Toews, Jeff Carter and Patrick Marleau. "Weve changed our lines, in my opinion – same at last Olympics – too much," said Babcock. Stingy in their defensive game in wins over Norway, Austria and Finland, the Canadian squad has not been the potent offensive machine one might expect with such an overwhelming talent base. In fact, the defence, led by the polished Drew Doughty with four goals, actually outscored the forwards – only three of whom have scored – in the preliminary round. All of which explains the continued juggling. And unlike say the American team, who has thrived behind the work of Toronto linemates, Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk, Canada has not yet benefited from any of the NHL pairs it brought to Sochi. Though reunited once more, Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz have failed to establish their Pittsburgh connectivity. Toews and Patrick Sharp landed together for one largely quiet game. And the scary Anaheim duo of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf has just a single goal and will try its third left winger in Jamie Benn against the Latvians. "Were just trying to find some ways to have better execution and generate some more chances," said John Tavares, likely to be paired with a mix that includes Sharp, Rick Nash and perhaps Martin St. Louis. "When we get our chances, weve got to put them in. Were not giving up a whole lot and we are controlling the game so I think those are good signs. I think that will lead to good things, especially with all the talent we have and the ability to create chances that we have." As promised – and perhaps to the recent chagrin of Babcock, based on the above remarks – Canada has not remained patient with any of the combinations it blended up. Carter, for instance, played one subpar game with Crosby and was promptly the 13th forward at the outset of game two. With talent bursting at the seams of the roster, the rationale behind shuffling what doesnt appear to work is understandable. "I think the one thing weve learned over time is if its not there, chemistry-wise, move," assistant coach Ken Hitchcock said before the tournament began. "Dont sit there and wait on it because [if] its not there early it aint there later." The challenge, of course, is that chemistry can take time to develop, but in a tournament that numbers two weeks, waiting really isnt an attractive option, though iin some cases may be warranted.dddddddddddd Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin, as fearsome a twosome as imaginable, remained together for each of Russias four games despite combining for just two goals. They did, however, see a new left wing in their qualification round match against Norway with Alex Semin replaced by Alex Popov. Whether that patience will be rewarded remains to be seen. In the case of Crosby, who has just two assists with a rotating cast of linemates, part of the fallout would seem to stem from the absence of Steven Stamkos, projected to be Ovechkin to Crosbys Malkin here in Sochi. The Canadian captain has played with eight different line combinations in 11 Olympic games dating back to Vancouver in 2010. "I think youre always aware of who youre playing with and what their strengths are," said Crosby, "but I dont think it changes what you do out there. I dont think you really have a chance to over-think too much. As far as what youre doing individually, its more your game plan as a team is whats going through your mind, rather than who youre necessarily playing with. All the guys here are so good, I think you can just read off each other, no matter who youre playing with." Babcock is betting on that being Kunitz, who rejoins Crosby and Patrice Bergeron against the Latvians. "Obviously I love playing with him," said Kunitz. "I have the tendencies and the chemistries when we play together in the NHL. We still have to go out and execute better … We have to make sure we go out and produce offensively. We have to make sure we go out and produce offensively, but make sure were working every shift, getting that momentum going forward every time somebody else gets on the ice." Outside of re-adjusting various combinations, Babcock is also pushing his group to attack the front of the net and middle of the ice with more regularity. They were largely held to the perimeter by a savvy Finnish squad in the final game of the preliminary round – all part of the ongoing adjustment to the international ice surface. An emphasis among players also centered around more puck possession and less of the dump-and-chase game preferred in much of the NHL. "It hasnt been easy to get to the front of the net, but weve controlled the play," said Tavares. "Theres been some times where teams are trying to slow us down and make it tough for us to get there." Handed just four power plays in three games, the Canadians are also hunting for more opportunity with the man advantage.  Unlike the forward combinations, the defence pairings have remained rock-solid thus far and considering how well Canada has played overall defensively, with almost no chances against in the 2-1 overtime win against the Finns, a huge injection of offence might not be necessary to repeat with gold. But with potent obstacles from the U.S. and Russia potentially down the line, an improvement from the present is likely needed. ' ' '
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