If the sign of a good team is winning on nights when it doesn't play its best, then Friday's 2-1 Blackhawks victory over the Nashville Predators should be cause for optimism.

"That was the sign of a team that has come a long ways in a couple months," Hawks coach Brian Sutter said.

The victory ran the Hawks' recent stretch to 5-1-3 in their last nine games with a tough patch coming up this week.

The Hawks are host to Colorado on Sunday, play at Detroit on Monday, at home against Calgary on Wednesday and home against Detroit on Friday.

"We've gutted out some wins and points on the road," said Mark Bell, who won a faceoff with 1 minute 1 second left that led to Steve Poapst's empty-net goal. "That shows we have some character in this room."

Poapst's empty-netter gave the Hawks a 2-0 lead. Nashville cut it in half with a Scott Hartnell goal with 27 seconds remaining.

The Nashville goal deprived Bryan Berard from getting the game-winning goal in his Blackhawks debut.

When he was signed, Sutter said Berard was like a fourth forward on the ice because he always jumps into the offense.

That was the case midway through the second period when he joined a scramble in front of the net, picked up a loose puck and beat Tomas Vokoun through his pads.

"I kind of got lucky, I was just fishing around," Berard said. "The goalie was leaning a little, and I found the five-hole."

Playing his first game since last April, Berard said he felt pretty good while trying to keep his shifts short.

"I had a little tough time on the power play," he said. "I was a little slow reacting."

Said Sutter: "He was excellent. He shot right where goal scorers shoot, right through the legs."

The Hawks caught a break in the final minutes. On a delayed penalty to Brett McLean—his third minor penalty of the third period—Nashville had two players come onto the ice when Vokoun went off. Nashville was given a penalty for too many men on the ice.

"I think we can play better as a team," goalie Jocelyn Thibault said. "But we're finding ways to win."