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Thibault just zeroes in on task at hand

Jocelyn Thibault let his mind wander for a second or two in the second period of the Blackhawks' home opener Sunday night.

At one point, Thibault even violated the supreme superstition for a goaltender: He thought about a shutout.

"I put it out of my mind right away," Thibault said.

Thibault was the only Blackhawk who showed up in Columbus for Thursday's season opener, but on Sunday his teammates joined him for a 3-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres before 16,910 at the United Center.

The shutout was the 28th of Thibault's career and his 20th since joining the Hawks.

"Things go through your mind in a game, some good things and some bad things," Thibault said. "You don't want the 'shutout' word going through your mind. I settled down and just focused on what I had to do."

He watched his teammates dominate a Buffalo team that came into the game with two victories by a combined score of 11-2.

Hawks coach Brian Sutter said he didn't change too many things from a strategic standpoint after Thursday's opener. The Hawks did emphasize shooting the puck more.

Perception is everything. On Thursday, the Hawks had 32 shots on goal and were angry because they didn't have more. On Sunday, they had 32 shots on goal and were pleased with their aggressiveness.

"We were a little more aggressive," Alex Zhamnov said. "Another good thing was guys driving the net, right through the middle."

The Hawks jumped on the Sabres after 86 seconds when Steve Sullivan found defenseman Jon Klemm cruising in alone on the right point. Klemm said he "had time to tee it up" and beat Martin Biron high to the stick side to give the Hawks the lead.

The game stayed tight until early in the second period. The Hawks salvaged what had been a wretched power-play opportunity when Tyler Arnason took a pass from Michael Nylander near the goal line and beat Biron from a bad angle to the far side four minutes into the second.

"That's why it's two minutes," Sullivan said. "We used almost all of it."

The back-breaker came nearly three minutes later. This time Buffalo was on a power play, one of its seven for the game. Zhamnov broke up the play at the Hawks' blue line and found Garry Valk at center ice.

Valk carried the puck and Sabres defenseman Jason Wooley down the left side of the Buffalo zone and gave Zhamnov a return pass in the slot. Zhamnov buried his shot past Biron for a shorthanded goal.

Meanwhile, Thibault was going through stretches in which he was as much a spectator as those sitting in the stands. He wasn't complaining, though.

"It's tough when your team plays good and you don't get a lot of shots," Thibault said. "I really had to stay focused and push myself."

Thibault saw more action in the third period when the Sabres took 11 of their 26 shots. Former Hawk J.P. Dumont had the best chance to spoil the shutout bid when he had a clean breakaway midway through the period. Thibault stayed with Dumont and got his left leg to the post just before Dumont could tuck the puck in.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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