Back in the day, there were very few effective defensive systems and offenses were stuck on full throttle. Those days — all of a week or so ago — are a thing of the past.

As the NHL season continues, there have been enough meetings and practices that the rust from the lockout — which was not shed during an abbreviated training camp — is gone. Games dominated by high-flying offenses are diminishing quickly and a normalcy of more grind-it-out hockey has returned.

The Blackhawks exploded for a combined 11 goals in their first two games this season and 20 in their first five. In their last four, they have managed to score a combined seven, with another being awarded to the team for a shootout victory.

"You have had more games and more meetings and more guys understand the structure and system of the team so everybody is playing tighter these days," veteran winger Marian Hossa said before the Hawks' Western Conference showdown game against the Sharks on Tuesday night at HP Pavilion.

"Now, everybody understands you have to come back hard to stop and start in the defensive zone. The first couple of games, we had a tendency to circle and all of sudden there were more openings."

The Sharks opened their season with 23 goals in their first five games and managed six (with another two awarded the team for shootout victories) in their four before facing off against the Hawks.

"The first few games for us were fantasy games where you score six goals in one period and you motor along and things are going really well," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We're through that training camp phase and we're into the grind, the 2-1, the 3-2 games, the tight-checking-under-30-shots-a-night-type games. This is what it's going to be. This is reality."

Added Sharks winger Adam Burish: "The first four or five or six games it was kind of open hockey, a little bit of racehorse at times. Power plays and penalty kills were finding their ways and if you could get a couple of power-play goals against a penalty kill that wasn't real sure of itself, you were probably going to win games."