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Friday, September 18

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Blackhawks Sat Sep 27 2008

Blackhawks' First Week Finale

After attending last week's fan festival scrimmages and the first preseason Blackhawks game Tuesday, I was planning on posting some of my initial impressions on the Hawks and the young players trying to make the roster. Unfortunately, real life interceded and after missing last night's preseason game and the organization's initial roster cuts that post seems a little outdated.

So instead, let's just cover some of the news filtering out of training camp.

First, the games themselves. While preseason games are more about evaluating talent and possible line combinations in preparation for the regular season than wins and losses, seeing the Hawks earn come from behind 4-3 victories against Columbus and Minnesota is a positive sign.

The Hawks experimented with playing Patrick Kane at center Friday in an effort to shore up a weakness down the middle. Though he played center throughout juniors, I think Kane's game at the NHL level is more suited for the wing, keeping his smaller frame away away from the congestion at center ice. I'm still uncertain on splitting up Kane and Jonathon Toews, as their chemistry last year was a large factor in the team's success. Toews will make anyone on his line better, and while Kane and forward Patrick Sharp also clicked, the rookie's sophomore season could be stunted without solid linemates.

Former Hawk Keith Carney is in camp trying to make the team at defense. Thanks, but no thanks. While the defense has struggled in year's past (see the reason the team signed Brian Campbell this offseason), the young corp is beginning to coalesce into a huge strength, and there's just no room for the 38-year-old Carney.

Dustin Byfuglien looks like a force to be reckoned with. Byfuglien was converted midseason from a defenseman to a forward, and while he showed promise at times with 19 goals, his skating and positioning in the new role was a work in progress. It's clear he put in a huge amount of work in the offseason and could surprise a lot of teams this year.

In the first two preseason games, the team announced attendance of more than 18,000 per game, something nearly unheard of for exhibitions in recent years. While the count is bolstered by the record number of season ticket holders this year and, at least on Tuesday, there were a few unused seats, if the team starts strong Hawks tickets are going to be the hottest ticket in town. Last October, the season ticket base was a measly 3,400, which has now been built to more than 13,500. Full season ticket packages do remain, which includes the opportunity to purchase Winter Classic tickets at Wrigley Field, but all nine- and 21-game packages are sold out.

Tomorrow evening the Blackhawks battle the Dallas Stars in their third home exhibition, in a game starting at 6pm.

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