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Blackhawks Tue Oct 21 2008

Hawk happenings

After grabbing headlines last Thursday with the prompt firing of coach Denis Savard, the Blackhawks moved on and returned to the ice this weekend for a pair of games, the first in the Joel Quenneville era. In Q's first game behind the bench last Saturday in St. Louis, the team came out strong and carried a 3-1 lead into the third period before a late rally by the Blues forced a shootout and an eventual 4-3 loss. Patrick Kane lead the Hawks with two goals and an assist, and goalie Nicolai Khabibulin played decently in the loss. Returning to the United Center the next night, the Blackhawks gave up a goal in the middle of the first before rallying for two quick scores and a 2-1 lead against the Vancouver Canucks. This time, they were able to keep the pressure on and emerged with a 4-2 final, giving netminder Cristobal Huet and Quenneville their first W's with the Hawks.

Now that the dust has settled, what kinds of changes can fans expect to see under Quenneville?

For the short term, probably not very much, given the team has only had two practices with Quenneville so far. Implementing a wholesale system change will take more than a few days, and given the Hawks offense was generally strong last season, it may be more fine-tuning than anything else.

One thing bound to change is with a new coach comes a fresh slate, for better of worse. Players know that lackluster performances under Quenneville could lead to a trip to the doghouse or Rockford, as in the case of Jack Skille, who was sent down today to be replaced by Troy Brouwer. Brouwer will be on the second line with Patrick Sharp and Martin Havlat in tomorrow's game against Edmonton, while Dustin Byfuglien will shift to the third line. Skille has been aggressive on the forecheck and one of the hungriest players on the team, but had notched only 1 goal and was -2 in 6 games, while Brouwer was currently leading the IceHogs in points and plays a physical, gritty game that suits Quenneville's philosophy.

Other roster moves remain to be seen, but as the team settles in, the differences between Savard and Quenneville will become more apparent in the upcoming weeks.

Besides tomorrow's game against the Oilers, the Hawks also welcome the rival Red Wings to the United Center for their first meeting Saturday. The Blackhawks went 5-3 against Detroit last season, but the Red Wings still skated away with the Stanley Cup. With this season's heightened expectations and Detroit's dominance of the Central division (they've won it all but 3 of the past 15 seasons), Saturday's matchup will be a key early test for Chicago.


 
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