So much to say; so little time to say it. With the trade deadline just days away, the rumors are starting to stockpile. (And, by “stockpile,” I mean there’s two rumors, and one we can forget about.) On top of it all, the Los Angeles Kings come to town this afternoon to undoubtedly embarrass the ‘Hawks in front of their home crowd.
Front and Center
Head Coach Joel Quenneville did his best impersonation of Cubs’ Manager Lou Piniella yesterday, publicly asking General Manager Dale Tallon for a center. (Please, please, please with a cherry on top, Dale??) Kris Versteeg’s production has dropped off since moving to center about a month ago, and strength on the puck will continue to prohibit him from being an NHL center. Despite a decent few first games at the position, he’s struggled there of late, and I think we can expect to see a new center in a ‘Hawk uniform by Wednesday. The two questions become: (1) who’s the center; and (2) who do the ‘Hawks take out of the line-up (or, perhaps, trade) in favor of said center? To answer the first question, names bounced around have been Maple Leafs’ Nik Antropov and Dominic Moore and Tampa Bay’s Jeff Halpern. It’s anyone’s guess who else is on a Blackhawks’ short list; I won’t venture a guess. The more intriguing question is who the ‘Hawks will give up in any deal.
Hockey Night in Canada’s Hot Stove panel yesterday evening spoke of a rift between Brian Campbell and Quennville, saying Campbell could be the one to go from Chicago. That won’t happen. Yes, Campbell’s not the prototypical defenseman, because, well – he can’t play defense. But, the ‘Hawks are very likely stuck with him for better or for worse for the next six seasons. And, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. Coach Q has to pick and choose his spots with Campbell, but the former Sabre and Shark bring the ‘Hawks something no defenseman has in recent history: a true puck mover. No, he can’t finish; he won’t shoot; his defense is offensive; and he doesn’t play in all situations. But, used correctly, he can be a force. Seems to me we knew all this when the ‘Hawks signed him eight months ago today, though.
I think the more likely scenario is a deal involving Dustin Byfuglien, who teams may still value highly, all things considered. Byfuglien is a big, sometimes physical winger, who showed an ability to score in bunches last season. His $3 million salary is also a road block to re-signing Martin Havlat, arguably the best Blackhawk this season.
I guess we’ll see in a few days.
The L.A. Kings have handed the ‘Hawks a pair of 5-2 losses this season – both at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (I’d link to our recaps of each game, but one was a turd sandwich. That probably explains it all.) Alexander Frolov is red hot with eleven points in his last four games, and Dustin Brown will be in his second game back since taking off a couple for the birth of his child. Raitis Ivanans, Kings’ enforcer, will not play due to the upper body injury taking the league by storm. Ivanans has been a presence in the teams’ first two meeting this season, so that may help.
The ‘Hawks haven’t beaten the Kings in regulation since December 2007, so this will be a tough one. Moreover, the Kings are only six points out of a playoff spot, and believe they have what it takes to make a run at the eighth spot. They’ll come out hard, fresh off a one-goal loss in Detroit on Friday.