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Jan Rutta’s unlikely story continues as he moves up to top pairing

Defenseman Jan Rutta has been in Chicago for nearly two months now, has played in every game this season and quickly has established himself as one of coach Joel Quenneville’s favorites.

So has this whole NHL thing started to feel normal yet?

‘‘No, no, no,’’ Rutta said with a laugh. ‘‘I’m still playing every game like it’s my last game here. I’m enjoying every minute of it. It’s just been 10 games into the season, so I definitely take nothing for granted.’’

Rutta’s dream start to his North American hockey career hit another level Friday, when he played on the Blackhawks’ top pairing alongside two-time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith. Rutta already has been averaging more than 19 minutes — more than every Hawks skater besides Keith, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews — and might have an even bigger role now that he’s Keith’s partner.

John Hayden (left) and Jan Rutta both moved up the lineup ahead of Friday's game against the Nashville Predators. (AP Photo)


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‘‘[Rutta] has come in here and earned a little bit more each and every day and game,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘Whether [he and Keith] get more ice time or not will be determined. But just watching them in practices and in some games when they’re [briefly] together, I think they’re complementary offensively and strong defensively.’’

Rutta, who has been playing primarily with Gustav Forsling, said his game won’t change just because he has a new — and elite — partner.

‘‘I played with Duncs one preseason game, and it was pretty amazing,’’ said Rutta, whom the Hawks signed out of the Czech Extraliga. ‘‘Hopefully, we’ll do a great job together.’’

Making Hay

John Hayden has spent most of the season on the fourth line with Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels. He has been playing about 11 minutes per game in that role, providing a physical edge and a bit of an offensive punch (one goal, three assists). But in the revamped lineup, he’ll be skating with Patrick Sharp and Artem Anisimov on a line with an intriguing mix of size and skill.

‘‘The easy thing about playing my game is it’s just a simple, hard-working game,’’ Hayden said. ‘‘You don’t really have to change. I’ve talked to both of those guys, and if we just play a hard-nosed, simple game, we’ll find success.’’

Numbers sometimes lie

After his hiccup in Las Vegas, Corey Crawford dropped to second in the league among No. 1 goalies with a still-sparkling .936 save percentage. But Crawford cautioned that the numbers can be deceiving.

‘‘As far as save percentage and stuff, for us, it’s always about wins,’’ Crawford said. ‘‘If your team’s winning, the stats will be there. I mean, it doesn’t hurt. But there’s a reason why there’s never an award for save percentage — because it’s not accurate.

‘‘It’s not like an assist; it’s not like a goal. It’s not as easy to track as those stats, right? They can always go back and say, ‘Oh, he touched it, that’s his goal.’ They’re not going to go back on every shot. There are shots that skim off you and go wide, and they don’t see it. . . . It’s kind of like a gray-area stat. It’s close, but it’s not accurate.

‘‘It’s nice to be up there. That’s a good indication that we’re winning, so that’s a good sign. But it doesn’t tell you everything.’’

Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com