Blackhawks rookie Alex DeBrincat looking to regain his scoring touch

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Alex DeBrincat tries to protect the puck from Minnesota’s Mikko Koivu during a game on Jan. 10. (AP Photo)

The third quarter of the season — Games 40 to 60 — are the dog days of the NHL season for everybody, but especially for rookies. Most young players have never faced such a long and grueling schedule.

Alex DeBrincat is not most young players, however.

“Last year I played around 100 games, so I’m pretty used to it,” DeBrincat said. “We went pretty far in the playoffs every year. Maybe when the playoffs hit here, it’ll be a little tougher. But I’ve been feeling good. That’s a positive of going the major junior route — you play a lot more games and you’re used to the schedule. For me, that’s helped a lot.”

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DeBrincat said the biggest adjustment has been playing every other night or so, as opposed to the Ontario Hockey League, where most games are on the weekend and you have three or four days each week to recover.

“Other than that, it’s pretty similar,” he said.

That said, DeBrincat has been struggling to recapture his scoring touch. After being shut out Wednesday against the Maple Leafs, he has no goals and one assist in his last seven games. He has just two goals in the last 18 games after posting 10 goals in a 13-game span in November and December.

Some of that has to do with him playing a third-line role recently after a brief dalliance with the top line; he has averaged fewer than 12 minutes a game the last six games after ranging between 14 and 18 minutes most nights in late November and December. Coach Joel Quenneville called it “a pretty normal [learning] curve,” especially for a player who played into late May last season.

DeBrincat was back on the power-play unit and up on Jonathan Toews’ line for the Leafs game, so that could help jump-start his offense.

“I thought the first 25 [games], he did a nice job,” Quenneville said. “As we’ve gone along here, a little bit [less] possession with the puck, and that’s one of his strengths. Whether it’s influencing pucks or being around the puck area, he was more effective earlier on. But I think he still has some looks in games, he is getting his shots through — and quality shots. If we get him back to that pace, he can be a real threat. But everyone has stretches where you’re more efficient, more effective. He came out of the gate strong and we’d like to get him back there.”

Crawford update

Quenneville said the Hawks are discussing the possibility of bringing injured goaltender Corey Crawford on the trip to Nashville, Vancouver and Calgary after this weekend’s All-Star break. Crawford has been on injured reserve since Christmas with what three sources described as vertigo-like symptoms.

If Crawford travels, it would probably be so the Hawks’ staff could monitor his progress on the ice, should he return to practice. Quenneville said the possibility of him actually playing “may be a little distant.”

Regardless, the Hawks are happy just to have Crawford around again.

“Selfishly, you want him back in your lineup, knowing what he’s meant to this team,” Toews said. “But at the end of the day, just knowing that for him, that he’s making progress, it’s a great thing. It’s good to see him around. For anyone who’s on the shelf for a little while, regardless of what your injury is, it’s not fun to be on your own page and just be by yourself all the time. It always gives you a little energy to be back in the locker room around

the guys.”

Roster report

Lance Bouma, Tommy Wingels and Jan Rutta were healthy scratches for the second consecutive game.

Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

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