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Blackhawks’ message to Teravainen: Trust your instincts

Teuvo Teravainen is young and inexperienced. That doesn’t mean he’s overwhelmed, and it doesn’t mean he needs his hand held as he gets his feet wet. So the way Patrick Sharp sees it, he’s Teravainen’s linemate, not his mentor.

“I’m not trying to guide Teuvo at all,” Sharp said. “He’s a great player; he’s here for a reason. If he needs help, if he’s got questions, I answer them. But I’m not going out of my way to tell him what to do. He knows what to do.”

Teravainen’s smooth play has been a bright spot during a bumpy stretch for the Blackhawks, who have lost five of their last eight games. He scored his first goal Friday against Winnipeg after being moved back to his natural position at center, and has been noticeable at both ends of the rink the last few games. Centering Sharp and Ben Smith on the third line on Sunday night, Teravainen created a couple of scoring chance and made a few savvy defensive moves, tying up opposing sticks and tipping passes.

The 20-year-old Finn has looked more comfortable — and more confident — each game he’s played. And it’s coming naturally, too. Nobody’s taking him under his wing, nobody’s pulling him aside for little pep talks. That’s not how the Hawks really do things. Marian Hossa doesn’t tell Brandon Saad how to be a 200-foot player, he shows him. Trevor van Riemsdyk learned how to be an NHL defenseman by watching Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson, not peppering them with questions. The Hawks aren’t hurting for good examples for a young player to model himself after.

“There are some really good players that I can watch every day, what they’re doing on the ice and off the ice, too,” Teravainen said. “I can learn just by watching. [Sharp] is a good guy. He’s trying to help me all the time, and I just feel good playing with him.”

When Sharp was a young guy coming up in the Philadelphia Flyers organization, it was a similarly star-laden team. He learned by watching the likes of Jeremy Roenick, John LeClair, Keith Primeau, Mark Rechhi and Tony Amonte. And the only message those veterans had for Sharp is the same message Sharp has for Teravainen: Trust your instincts.

“There’s no reason for him to listen to me or anybody else at this point, unless it’s the coaching staff,” Sharp said. “Just play on instincts. Usually, he has the right ones.”

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville has raved about those instincts ever since Teravainen first showed up at training camp last season. And the rookie is starting to earn Quenneville’s trust. He started on the fourth line, quickly moved up to the third line, and then moved from right wing to center, a position with more responsibility.

“Whether he’s playing center or wing … I still think he goes to the right area, so I think naturally his instincts are positionally sound,” Quenneville said.

There’s still plenty of room to improve. Teravainen won just 3-of-10 faceoffs in Sunday’s loss to Dallas. He’s still physically overmatched at times. And there have been a few situations when he’s been too eager to pass rather than shoot. But in his two weeks with the Hawks, the progress has been real, and it’s been significant. And he’s making it on his own.

“That’s good to know,” Teravainen said when told Sharp called him a “great player.” “But yeah, I just have to realize that and play how I can. I’m a good player, so I can make some plays. I just have to do it.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus