It's just a Tennessee waltz for Hawks

Tribune staff reporter

The jury is still out on whether the Blackhawks have enough time to make a push for the postseason, but it's obvious they aren't done presenting their case.

Needing a victory to close out their longest trip of the season with a winning record and momentum as they return home after being away for 17 days, the Hawks defeated the Nashville Predators 6-1 Thursday night before a crowd of 16,937 at the Sommet Center.

The Hawks ended the seven games with a 3-2-2 record, including convincing victories over Western Conference rivals on back-to-back nights to give them seven points in their last four games.

A night after racing to a 4-0 lead in their 7-2 triumph over the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Hawks scored the first six goals Thursday, including three in the first period.

"When you see us come out with 3-0 or 4-0 leads after the first period, I don't think that's a coincidence," said rookie center Jonathan Toews, who had two goals and an assist in his third game back after missing 16 games with a knee injury. "We were focused and ready to go."

Patrick Kane, Dave Bolland and Brent Sopel each had two assists, and Brent Seabrook was a plus-4 against Nashville.

"Overall the last two games it took a lot of grit [and] a lot of character to play the way we have," Hawks coach Denis Savard said. "Our guys aren't looking for excuses with the long trip. They found a way to really dig in and get the job done."

Duncan Keith started the Hawks' onslaught 1 minute 4 seconds into the game as he beat Nashville goaltender Chris Mason with a wrist shot from inside the left faceoff circle.

Toews scored the next two for the Hawks, the first with a highlight-reel goal as he skated around two Predators defensemen, raced around the net and tucked in a wrap-around. Toews added his second of the night and 17th of the season with a shot from the left faceoff dot that trickled past Mason, who then was replaced by Dan Ellis.

Rene Bourque made it 4-0 early in the second when he redirected a Sopel shot from the point past Ellis, and Cam Barker increased it to 5-0 on a wrist shot from the top of the right circle.

Patrick Sharp's 27th goal made it 6-0 and extended the winger's points streak to six games. Sharp fired a one-timer past Ellis off a feed from Kane early in the third.

"The last couple of games we just came out of the gate very strong, and it makes everybody's job easier," said goalie Patrick Lalime, who had 24 saves. "What I like the most is we didn't lay back. Sometimes you take a good lead and you just sit back. We just played a strong game from start to finish."

Khabibulin hurtingHawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin was feeling better a day after suffering a sprained knee during Wednesday night's 7-2 victory over Columbus.

"There's a chance he'll practice Saturday," Savard said. "I don't know if I'm going to play him Sunday [against Colorado], but he's not as bad as we thought it would be."

Corey Crawford was recalled from Rockford of the American Hockey League to back up Lalime on Thursday. Winger Jack Skille was reassigned to Rockford.

Not yetSavard said "it's pretty tough to take somebody out [of the lineup] right now," so it's unlikely winger Jason Williams will return for Sunday's game against the Avalanche at the United Center. Williams has missed 33 games with a groin injury and sports hernia surgery.

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