Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Jeff Hale of Slap Shot at the NYT,
Hands up out there if you had Kris Versteeg of the Chicago Blackhawks as your candidate for the Calder Trophy this season.
Versteeg, 22, leads N.H.L. rookies in points (22), assists (15) and plus-minus (+13). Versteeg’s route to prominence was a long one. He has escaped major notice because he was drafted four years ago in the fifth round by Boston, who dealt him to Chicago for Brandon Bochenski in February 2007. The Bruins would probably love to redo that deal.
It’s possible that Versteeg’s main challenger could be just as unexpected. Steve Mason, 20, the goalie for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is 6-3-1 with a .917 save percentage and a 2.18 goals-against average. He also has two shutouts.
continued with some WHC and Phaneuf talk included.
Brian Campbell participated in a tele-conference today… Q. As David mentioned, Chicago is greatly improved on the power play this year. I think you are seventh in the league; whereas, they have not been in the top 20 in several years. Could you talk about the effectiveness of the first unit, and talk about how the coaches worked in other partners with you on the point and what’s been working the best.
BRIAN CAMPBELL: Well, we struggled out of the gate the first couple of games on the power play. And I think even until we found the right mix, it took a while. So over the last, probably 15 games maybe, we started to click pretty good.
Obviously it helps when Patty Kane is a year older and Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Sharp has his confidence going. And obviously on the point, I’ve worked with—we found to get on the right sides and everything with Cam Barker and myself on the one unit that we are using right now.
So, you know, I think for us, we have been finding knowing our areas where to go and finding holes and we know all of our options out there, I think that’s the biggest thing about a power play is to know where your options are at all times. For us, I don’t even have to look in a lot of instances and I know where guys are going to be in what areas.
You know, it’s good. You need that to be a playoff team. You need to be up there in special teams in those areas.
via Tim Sassone of Between the Circles,
It’s interesting that Marty Havlat skated on the third line at practice Tuesday with Dave Bolland and Andrew Ladd.
Are the Hawks preparing for life after Havlat? Maybe. There are rumors out there that Havlat might be the guy GM Dale Tallon tries to move to create cap space. Havlat makes $6 million and is an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Do the Hawks need Havlat to make the playoffs? Not if they think of him as a third-liner. Besides, if they are able to trade him Tallon could turn around and use that cash on a top-six forward or a defenseman, or both.
More and more, this is looking like the way to solve the cap problem - as long as Tallon can find a team that wants Havlat and as long as Havlat stays healthy.
from Fran Spielman of the Chicago Sun-Times,
Frigid fans jamming Wrigley Field won’t be the only ones cheering when the Blackhawks host the Detroit Red Wings on New Year’s Day for the NHL’s second Winter Classic.
They’ll be shouting from the rooftops, as well….
“It’s a fierce rivalry. Interest is very high and ticket prices are very high. There’s an opportunity for the rooftops to do some business,” said Tunney, who has introduced an ordinance authorizing rooftop clubs currently limited to Cubs home games to be open Jan. 1.
For more on the TV commercial, visit this post from earlier today.
from Tim Sassone of Between the Circles,
Paging Marty Havlet. Paging Marty Havlat. Please report to the front of the net.
OK, maybe that’s a bit harsh. And I like Marty, but where the heck was he on the six-game road trip that ended with a thud Saturday afternoon at Staples Center?...
Havlat is frustrating the Hawks and don’t be surprised if GM Dale Tallon starts shopping the winger, who is making $6 million to not be a difference maker. Havlat is going to be an unrestricted free agent after the season and there’s no way he will be asked back. No chance. None.
Up until now I thought the Hawks needed Havlat to make the playoffs, but now I don’t think they do. Maybe there’s a team out there that wants to take a chance on him and would offer a player in return. You just can’t give Havlat away at this point.
from Curtis Zupke of Ducks Blog at the OC Register,
The Register checked in with longtime Blackhawks beat writer Tim Sassone of the Daily Herald before Chicago came to Honda Center on Friday….
Q: Speaking of goaltending, Nikolai Khabibulin (above) has recently taken over the No.1 spot after he split time with Cristobal Huet, who was brought in during the offseason for $5.62 million. Is the goalie controversy settled or is this going to be a season-long issue?
A: It’s messy. That might be the best way to put it. When they signed Huet on July 1, it shocked everyone. Nobody saw that coming. As long as they couldn’t get rid of (Khabibulin), he’s been playing great … now they’re backed into a corner. You can’t trade him and you’ve got a $5 million goalie sitting on the bench
They’re just going to ride it out and see how long they can go this way.
more on the Blackhawks…
from Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune,
Quenneville hasn’t changed the Hawks’ systems radically, but his steady hand and knowledge of the game seems like the perfect fit for the youngest team in the league.
“It was a tough start to the year,” second-year winger Patrick Kane said. “It was unfortunate what happened to Savvy, but since Joel came along it seems like the right move right now.
“The team is playing great behind him. It’s a lot simpler game. It’s like we’re playing with our instincts. If we can keep winning games and find a way to get into the playoffs, anything can happen once you get there. That’s the goal for this season.”
One of the biggest question marks heading into the season was whether the Hawks had enough offense. After 20 games, that has been answered emphatically: They are second in the NHL, averaging 3.55 goals per game.
from Tim Sassone of Between the Circles,
We might not know until Friday how badly Nikolai Khabibulin and Aaron Johnson are hurt.
Khabibulin went down in the final minute of the second period of Wednesday’s 3-2 OT loss to the Sharks with what appeared to be a groin or hamstring problem. Joel Quenneville didn’t know if Khabibulin would be examined Thursday in San Jose, where the Hawks were to practice, or if he would need to return to Chicago. If the injury is serious, Cristobal Huet would vault into the spotlight and we’d likely see Antti Niemi recalled from Rockford to be the backup.
from Tim Sassone of Between the Circles at the Chicago Daily-Herald,
Is it being a little too greedy to think the Hawks can go 6-0 on this road trip?
Wednesday’s game in San Jose won’t be easy, but the Sharks can be beat and the Hawks almost did it last week at the United Center. The Hawks led 5-4 going to the third period then took a couple dumb penalties and wound up losing 6-5.
It’s on to Anaheim Friday and the Ducks aren’t anywhere near as good as they were when they won the Stanley Cup.
The Hawks close the trip Saturday at Los Angeles against an improved, but nothing special Kings team.
The way Khabibulin is playing and the way the Hawks have shown they can score goals, there’s not a game on the schedule they can’t win.
more on the Blackhawks…
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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