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Teuvo Teravainen earning trust, learning confidence

Teuvo Teravainen just about has this whole hockey thing down. Only 21 years old, he’s become a dependable and versatile weapon in Joel Quenneville’s arsenal. He’s shown he can be a shooter and a playmaker, a top-liner and a checking-liner, a two-way threat who can be effective on the power play and the penalty kill.

He hasn’t quite reached the lofty heights so many expect him to eventually reach, but he has become a viable, reliable NHL player. At least, on the ice. Between the ears, well, he’s still working on that.

“I still think my confidence goes up and down too much,” Teravainen said. “When I play a bad game, I feel like I’m a bad player. And if I play a good game, I feel really good. I need to focus on staying steady and being confident all the time. Of course, it’s hard. Sometimes you make a bad play, or a bad decision, or have a bad game. You’ve got to stay positive. I’m trying to do that.”

It certainly helps that Teravainen has gotten past the point where he needs to be looking over his shoulder. A year removed from his call-up last January, Teravainen is no longer in danger of being demoted back to Rockford, as he was last February, and doesn’t have to sweat being a healthy scratch, as he was five times during the Stanley Cup playoffs before he broke out in the Western Conference final.

Quenneville had used Teravainen on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, but the Hawks’ lineup really fell into place when Teravainen dropped down to the third line with Andrew Desjardins and Phil Danault, giving the team a desperately needed third scoring line. And when Artem Anisimov missed a game with an illness on Jan. 12, it was Teravainen who got slotted at center between Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane.

“Teuvo’s useful in a lot of ways, from playing with Phil to playing with [Panarin and Kane], killing penalties, [playing on the] top unit,” Quenneville said. “His flexibility gives you a lot of options.”

He’s earned Quenneville’s trust. Now he has to earn his own.

“I think I’m getting better all the time,” Teravainen said. “It’s been a long year, but it’s been good for me. I got a lot of experience. And I think my game is going the right way. I’m working hard to get better.”

Teravainen has nine goals and 13 assists through 47 games, well ahead of his pace last season, when he had four goals and five assists in 34 games. As the top offensive talent on his line, he’s learning to be more aggressive with his shot, and to not always resort to his playmaking ability to set up somebody else. It helps that he’s not drawing the opponent’s shutdown line anymore, now that he’s not on one of the top two lines.

But the overall improvement is best seen by how Quenneville uses him. The coach no longer feels compelled to shelter Teravainen, and put him in safe situations.

“I think I’m getting [his] trust,” Teravainen said. “It’s something you can’t really do fast, you have to stay patient and do the right things every single night to earn it. It’s been good. I’m really enjoying playing right now. I get some PK time, I get a lot of own-zone faceoffs. And I play in the last minutes of periods. That’s one thing I really want to do.”

Now it’s just a matter of staying on an even keel — a Hawks hallmark, but something that only comes with experience.

“The guys are so good about staying positive, and not [getting down on themselves],” Teravainen said. “That’s what I need to do. I’m getting there.”