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Blackhawks Notebook: Campbell Gives Defense A New Look

10/08/2008 4:13 PM

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With the acquisition of defenseman Brian Campbell, the Blackhawks have been able to completely revamp their defensive philosophy and have high expectations for their rebuilt blue line.

Last season, the Blackhawks surrendered 231 goals, 20th-best in the league. Head coach Denis Savard says that his goal is to allow fewer than 200 goals this season, which would allow his team to “graduate” to the playoffs.

“I think 190-195 [goals against] will get us to graduate,” said Savard. “We’ve got to keep our goals against down.”

Savard praised the work that Campbell has already done on the ice, and how easily he has meshed with his teammates. He said that Campbell’s addition gives the Hawks a defenseman who is also a legitimate scoring threat every time he’s on the ice.

“[Campbell] gives us a different look for our team. He’s got so much ability, and once he takes off with the puck it’s tough for forwards to keep up. He’s got such great ability offensively,” explained Savard. “He’s a great leader. He’s already become a very popular teammate. He’s a real pro.”

Campbell will be paired with Duncan Keith on the blue line to begin the season. Savard said that the offensively-minded Campbell will allow Keith to focus more on his defense. Keith’s plus/minus was a stellar +30 last year.

“I’m not concerned about how many points he’s going to get,” Savard said about Keith. “We talked about this, him and I. I said ‘just be the best 'Dunc' that you can be. Be good defensively, get the puck out of your end, play good defense and you’ll be a plus-thirty again.’”

Keith’s former linemate, Brent Seabrook, will likely start the season sharing a line with Brent Sopel. Seabrook said that he’s gotten comfortable with Keith in the three years they’ve played together, but added that he feels like the team has enough defensive talent that he can play effectively with anyone.

“We have a lot of great ‘D’ on this team, and playing with any of the seven guys will be great,” Seabrook said. “It’s going to be a good year.”

Huet, Savard On The Goalie Tandem

Goaltender Cristobal Huet said that he doesn’t care whether he or Nikolai Khabibulin gets the start in goal Friday night when the Blackhawks face the New York Rangers, or any night for that matter, as long as the team gets the win. It doesn’t change his mission for the season, which is just to be ready to start any time Savard calls on him.

“We can’t wait for Friday night,” said Huet. “As long as we get the job done as a team, I don’t see any problem.”

“They’re both doing well. They’re both number one goalies, and the best goalie’s going to play,” Savard said of his tandem. “I think it’s great to have both of them. They’ll challenge each other and make our team better.”

Huet said that he’s looking forward to starting the season with a Blackhawks team that he says reminds him a lot of the Washington Capitals team that he went to the postseason with last year.

“We can compare this team to Washington, I think. There’s a lot of youth and exciting players on that team and everybody’s excited about the team,” said Huet. “At the same time, I think a lot of things are can affect us. It’s going to be important to be ready for that challenge, so teams respect us even more.”

Savard said that he will decide on Friday which goalie starts the season opener in New York.

Ladd’s New Role

Left winger Andrew Ladd is joining Jonathan Toews and Martin Havlat on the team’s first line. He may not generate the same amount of points that former first-liners Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp do, but Ladd still sees a role for himself sharing the line with two of the Blackhawks’ most prolific scorers.

“Hopefully, I can create a little room, go to the net and open up some space behind me,” said Ladd. “I want to be the guy who does a little more of the grunt work and lets them handle the puck.”

Ladd feels fortunate to be sharing a line with Toews and Havlat, and looks forward to helping give them space to take lots of open shots at the net.

“Those guys are two pretty special players,” he said. “For me, it’s just about creating room for them and letting them do their thing.”