Return of goal-scoring Jonathan Toews buoys Blackhawks

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Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane (88) taps the puck to teammate Jonathan Toews, who would score the game-winning goal in overtime for a 4-3 victory against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night in St. Paul, Minn. (Stacy Bengs/AP)

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — It’s difficult to tell what’s in store for the Blackhawks in the last two months of the regular season.

Are they primed for a run at overtaking the Wild for the Central Division title or destined for another March lull that will leave them scrambling for momentum heading into the playoffs?

Even the trade deadline is an X-factor. They can add somebody or nobody.

But as they head into the last two games of a six-game trip, they’ve got one thing going for them that bodes particularly well for a team that thrives on intangibles: a percolating Jonathan Toews.

“Players like that, when they’re going, they bring lots of guys with them,’’ veteran  winger Marian Hossa said. ‘‘So the whole dressing room is rising.

‘‘Toews is always playing well, but when he’s productive like right now, I think he’s [making] everybody around him better.”

Mired in a scoring slump in the first half of the season — he had four goals and 14 points in 26 games through Dec. 20 — Toews has regained his offensive touch with seven goals and 19 points in the Hawks’ last 20 games, including four goals and 11 points in the last seven.

His game-winning goal in overtime Wednesday against the Wild — shoveling a rebound past Darcy Kuemper — was an opportunity he had missed too often earlier in the season.

“I’m just trying to find that groove every night where I’m working hard, playing with confidence with the puck, playing the right way and not getting ahead of the play,” Toews said. “Sometimes when you’re not thinking offense, the offense just seems to come.”

And as coach Joel Quenneville noted, there also are the residual benefits of a player of Toews’ status becoming a more dangerous threat.

“It puts your team in a great spot,” Quenneville said. “It gives us more balance . . . [we] have a couple of lines where the opposition has to be worried about what line they want to check or be concerned about. It helps loosen up the coverage of the other lines, as well.”

While the Hawks (33-17-5) obviously are buoyed by Toews’ offensive uptick, they never sweated his scoring slump.

“I think it might just add a little bit more depth and a little bit more confidence throughout the room,” winger Patrick Kane said. “I don’t think any of us in here really look at him and think, ‘Oh, he’s not playing well. What’s going on with the team?’ ”

Still, Toews’ scoring decline at 28 bears watching. Even with the recent binge, he’s on a pace for career lows in goals and points, and his shooting percentage has dropped from 15.6 last season to 8.9.

But like his fellow slumping Selke Award-winning contemporaries — the Kings’ Anze Kopitar (six goals, 32 points, 6.0 shooting percentage in 48 games) and the Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron (13 goals, 29 points, 6.6 shooting percentage in 52 games) — Toews keeps his all-around game near the top, just not at peak levels.

“Even when he’s so-called not producing, he’s still doing a lot of different things that are helping the team,” Kane said. “Some guys are measured by production more than others, and he’s probably one of those guys. But I think overall he’s been playing pretty much the same.

“Sometimes it’s bad puck luck. Sometimes you’re overthinking things. But as of late, it seems like he’s got a little more confidence. He scored a great goal [against the Wild] and played a great game.

‘‘We’ll probably need that down the stretch from him, especially if we want to advance as far as we can.”

Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.


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