The rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks have won three straight games and sit four points from a playoff spot heading into Thursday's road clash against the Vancouver Canucks.
"We've got to keep climbing," goaltender Robin Lehner said.
"I think we're above .500 now for the first time in a while. (Forget) the negatives here, learn a little bit from them, but keep building on the positives because we just have to keep trying to get better and keep climbing in the standings. We want to make the playoffs. We've just got to keep learning."
Winners in five of their last six, the Blackhawks are coming off a 5-3 victory over the Calgary Flames on New Year's Eve when veterans led the way and some young guns also contributed. Patrick Kane collected two goals and four points, giving him the most points in the league for the decade (802). Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome each had one goal and one assist.
Even though the Blackhawks held a 4-0 lead and needed Kane's empty-net goal to seal the deal, they weren't about to downplay the result.
"We knew they were going to have a push. Just have to find a way to tighten up in those situations and make sure we make the simple plays to make it easy on ourselves," Kane said. "The important thing is we got the win. You can learn from certain situations when (you're) winning, which is a good thing."
The Canucks are one of the league's surprise teams midway through the season, sitting third in a tight Pacific Division and riding a season-best five-game winning streak.
Considering that a few weeks ago they appeared to be on their way to yet another lottery draft pick, the Canucks have shown to be on the right track. It won't be a complete surprise if Vancouver misses the playoffs, but they're certainly proving they can be in the fight to the end.
"Obviously, our first goal of the year is to get into the playoffs. You have to be good all year. You can't turn it on late," goalie Thatcher Demko said. "You've got to be solid throughout the season. Staying in the mix and getting back up towards the top of the Pacific (Division) is huge for us."
Their last game was also a win over the Flames -- a 5-2 victory Sunday that put their improved roster depth on display. While the Canucks are being led by rising stars Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Quinn Hughes, the win featured a pair of goals from Tyler Myers, while Jake Virtanen, Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson had multi-point games.
"We talk about it almost every day. Simple hockey," Myers said.
"I think we're starting to realize more and more, one of the biggest strengths of our team is our forecheck, so when we're chipping pucks in and we have the speed that we had tonight on the puck, you can tell that the other teams have trouble breaking the pucks out. ... We just have to continue that."
--Field Level Media
Rebuilds on display when Blackhawks visit Canucks