Corey Crawford will get the start in goal for the Blackhawks on Sunday at Nashville. | AP
DALLAS — Stars coach Glen Gulutzan had a pretty simple explanation for why the Blackhawks have gotten off to such a hot start.
“Their best players are their best players right now,” he said. “That’s always dangerous because they’ve got a lot of them.”
Indeed, the Hawks’ stars have shined the brightest in the early going. Through four games, Marian Hossa has five goals, Patrick Kane has two goals and five assists, Jonathan Toews has four points and a plus-4 rating and Patrick Sharp has six points.
“It’s a good thing for the team,” Kane said. “That’s one of the things about the core group of guys in here: They want to be the guys to help carry the team.”
Kane, in particular, has looked at the top of his game. He partly credits his stint in Switzerland during the lockout for keeping him in midseason form, but also a renewed focus to get his numbers back up after they dropped each of the last two seasons. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville has noticed.
“I see it, yeah,” Quenne-ville said. “Whether it’s his preparation going out for a practice, or on the ice going into games or on the bench in the games. He wants to be on the ice, which he always did, but I think he’s bringing meaning to his shifts, and there’s an awareness defensively. Offensively, he looks quick. His shot looks like it’s got a little more zip to it.”
Kane disagreed with Gulutzan’s statement that the top guys are what make the Hawks so scary.
“It’s not just the top guys in here; we’ve got everyone going,” Kane said. “I’d say that’s the scariest part — you have four lines and six defensemen playing well.”
Forward Jamal Mayers played in 81 regular-season games last season for the Hawks, providing a steady veteran presence, solid face-off skills and toughness. But Thursday night was his first appearance on the ice after spending the first three games as a healthy scratch. Brandon Bollig was scratched in his stead.
“We’ve got some depth organizationally,” Quenneville said before announcing Mayers would play. “Everybody’s going to get to play. We like his experience, we like his leadership qualities and he brings us some intensity. He’ll get in the lineup here, and he’ll be part of it. What he brings to our team, it’s valuable, and whether he’s playing or not, he’s going to be an important piece of our team.”
Quenneville is a famed line-tinkerer, but he’s usually loath to alter his lineup when things are going well, so Mayers’ insertion was a mild surprise.
“We don’t usually change too much when [we’re winning],” Quenneville said.
“But Jammer’s going to get in here before you know it.”
The Stars’ combination of Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney became only the fourth pair of 40-year-old teammates to score on the same night since 1942 when they did so in Saturday’s opening victory over Phoenix.
How long has Jagr been in the league? When he made his NHL debut for the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 5, 1990, Quenneville was on the other side with the Washington Capitals — as a player.