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Blackhawks grind out win

– The Chicago Blackhawks are taking a more direct approach to generating offense without injured star forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

So far, it’s working.

Rookie Jeremy Morin scored and set up Patrick Sharp’s go-ahead goal in the second period, and injury-depleted Chicago held on to defeat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Sunday afternoon for its third straight win.

The Blackhawks ground out the victory despite playing without Toews’ powerful skating and Kane’s puck-handling skills for the third game. Forward Brandon Saad was a last-minute scratch.

“We’ve simplified our game quite a bit,” said Sharp, who scored his team-leading 33rd goal. “We’re not trying to make as many plays offensively. We’re battling hard.

“Usually when you battle hard individually and as a team, good things happen. We’ve raised our battle level lately, but we’re just keeping things simple. Getting pucks in, getting pucks out.”

And some younger players, such as Morin, are getting more ice time and showing just how deep defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago is.

“I’m just taking it day by day every time I’m in the lineup, trying to make the most of it,” Morin said. “We’re comfortable out there.

“I’m just playing the game right now and letting things come.”

Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith also scored for Chicago, which closed to one point behind Colorado for second place in the Central Division and home ice in the first round of the playoffs. The Blackhawks have three games left. The Avalanche, who host Pittsburgh on Sunday night, have five games left.

Toews, Chicago’s captain, sat out his third game since March 30 with an upper-body injury. Kane, who has resumed skating, missed his ninth since March 9 with a lower-body injury.

BLUE JACKETS 4, ISLANDERS 0: In Columbus, Ohio, Boone Jenner and Mark Letestu each had a goal and an assist, and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 31 shots for his second shutout in a week to lead Columbus, which is desperate to hang onto a playoff spot in the East.

PANTHERS 3, STARS 2: In Sunrise, Fla., Sean Bergenheim scored with 4:31 left to break a third-period tie, and Florida snapped a five-game losing streak.

The Stars still hold a one-point lead over Phoenix for the second Western Conference wild card spot.

FLYERS 5, SABRES 2: In Philadelphia, Brayden Schenn scored two goals, and Philadelphia broke a four-game losing streak and maintained third place in the Metropolitan Division, two points ahead of Columbus.

PENGUINS 3, AVALANCHE 2, SO: In Denver, Jussi Jokinen skated across the front of the crease and roofed a shot over sprawling goalie Semyon Varlamov to give Pittsburgh the win in a shootout.

OILERS 4, DUCKS 2: In Edmonton, Alberta, Taylor Hall had a goal and two assists, and Edmonton beat Pacific Division-leading Anaheim. It was the Oilers’ second straight win.