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Blackhawks Thu Mar 12 2009

Hawk chatter

Catching up on a the past week's worth of Blackhawk news, including last Wednesday's trade deadline.

First, on the ice, last Tuesday Chicago shot down the Anaheim Ducks comeback attempt in a 3-2 win in the last pre-deadline contest. The Hawks made one trade (details below), then lost a pair of weekend games 5-3 in Boston, and an embarassing 5-1 defeat to the worst-in-the-West Colorado Avalanche. In fact, I'd be hard pressed to find a worse game I've seen them play all season, and the fans at the United Center greeted the half-hearted effort with full-throated boos. Last night saw the team get back to basics, get shots on net, and eke out a 3-2 shootout win over the Carolina Hurricanes, a much needed win as Vancouver had closed to within 5 points of the 4th playoff seed.

The Hawks continue their four-game homestand Friday against the Columbus Bluejackets, who are in the thick of the playoff chase, and welcome the woeful New York Islanders Sunday afternoon.

The bigger news around the team has been off the ice, with players in the sick bay and moving out of town. Top scorer Patrick Sharp and goalie Nicolai Khabibulin missed the past month, and while Khabi came off IR yesterday, Sharp has only started skating. Also, forward Martin Havlat missed his first game of the season with a lower-body injury suffered blocking a shot. Given Havlat's unhealthy history, the worst was feared, but the injuries been termed a bruise and a day-to-day thing by Coach Joel Quenneville.

One player who won't be back soon is popular defenseman James Wisniewski, who was traded to the Ducks for center Samuel Pahlsson. Also included in the deal was Hawks minor-leaguer Petri Kontiola, with prospect Logan Stephenson and a conditional draft-pick coming back to Chicago.

In theory, it's a good trade: the team trades from a position of strength in their defense to fulfill a need of a center strong in faceoofs. However, how the trade works out both short and long term will depend on a few key facts.

While Pahlsson is a defensive center who's strong in faceoffs, he's been out since January with mono and was struggling before that. How good of shape is he going to be in when he gets back? Pahlsson was a huge part of the Ducks Stanley Cup run in 2007, but there's no guarantee the Blackhawks will get that player. On top of that, Pahlsson is an unrestricted free-agent and may only be a short-term rental. The trade improves the Hawks, but they will still need a strong run to get through the Western Conference.

Also, while the team had defensive depth, Wisniewski was one of the only gritty, physical blueliners. Given the Hawks' struggles against aggressive teams, making the defense more soft is a problem that showed through in the losses last weekend. Wiz was also a restricted free agent, and while the team probably wouldn''t be able to afford him, they would have received a draft pick if another team signed Wisniewski.

Pahlsson has started skating, so how he fits into the Hawks will be seen soon enough, and with a month left in the regular season, a full roster will be needed to secure the 4th seed and home ice for the first round of the playoffs.

 
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