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Chicago Blackhawks right wing Alex DeBrincat (12) scores against Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Garret Sparks (40) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

Blackhawks’ Alex DeBrincat ‘refreshed’ by line change, focused on scoring goals

SHARE Blackhawks’ Alex DeBrincat ‘refreshed’ by line change, focused on scoring goals
SHARE Blackhawks’ Alex DeBrincat ‘refreshed’ by line change, focused on scoring goals

Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat played the 100th game of his NHL career Monday at Carolina. There was no special ceremony marking the occasion. Truth be told, DeBrincat wasn’t even aware of it. There’ll be bigger milestones to celebrate — much bigger ones, the 20-year-old hopes — down the line.

But just hearing he’d hit a nice, round number brought a smile to his face as he geared up for the game Wednesday against the Blues at the United Center, a 1-0 Hawks victory that snapped an eight-game losing streak. And when your team is in an 0-6-2 tailspin, smiles aren’t to be taken for granted.

“I feel like I just played my first game yesterday,” he said. “It’s been a fun time. Obviously, we want to do better, but I’ve enjoyed my time here and hope to be here a lot more time.”

How about adding a zero someday like grizzled defensemen Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith, both members of the 1,000-games club?

“Hopefully, it happens one day,” DeBrincat said. “Now that’s a huge milestone.”

Meanwhile, DeBrincat would do well to focus on his next 60-plus games. Perhaps no Hawk is in better position to help a foundering team survive this early-season storm than the one who led the team in goals as a rookie last season with 28.

Patrick Kane might take a real run at the Art Ross Trophy, awarded to the leading scorer in the league. Jonathan Toews likewise is off to a fast start. Neither player has to so much as lift a stick to prove himself or his value to the team.

But DeBrincat’s goal-scoring ability is formidable, too. DeBrincat can take the list of Hawks star forwards from two to three. Two is a rather sorry state of affairs. Three is a ray of hope, a burst of possibility, a fighting chance.

“I think he’s a great player,” Kane said. “And we need him.”

DeBrincat was the first Hawks rookie to have three hat tricks. He started this season with six goals in five games. His goal against the Hurricanes in Game No. 100 was a thing of beauty. We’ve all seen what he’s capable of when he’s locked in.

On the other hand, there were the seven games leading up to the one at Carolina. DeBrincat didn’t score in any of them. Not at all coincidentally, the Hawks didn’t win any of them.

In short: These Hawks are toast if DeBrincat doesn’t keep putting the puck in the back of the net.

“He has always been a great shooter,” Toews said. “And I think he has really worked on the rest of the game, but he has the big talent to be selfish with the puck.”

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Meaning what, exactly?

Shoot that sucker. Fire at will. Don’t be shy. That’s what Toews — and all the Hawks — want to see from DeBrincat.

“Don’t worry about getting it to myself or linemates or whatever,” Toews said. “Just go out there and make the plays that you see that are there.”

DeBrincat skated on a line with center David Kampf and wing Dominik Kahun for the first time against the Hurricanes, a combination that made some hay. He claims to be fine no matter what combinations new coach Jeremy Colliton concocts.

“I think sometimes when you’re in a goal drought or whatever, you’re frustrated, just not making plays,” he said. “A line change gives you some new faces and some new looks. It’s refreshing.”

The seven-game scoring drought, on the other hand, got old in a hurry. Another drought isn’t going to work for him.

“I want to score,” he said. “I want to help the team.”

Indeed, they are one and the same.

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