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Beach knows he must earn spot with big club
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff

Kyle Beach, left, fights with Minnesota's Marc-Andre Bergeron during the first period Friday night at the United Center.


Associated Press

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Published: 9/27/2008 12:08 AM

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Kyle Beach was pleasantly surprised when he reported to his first Blackhawks training camp and found jersey No. 12 hanging in his locker.

"They gave me my number from juniors, which is unbelievable," Beach said. "I was expecting to wear 62 or 57 or a number nobody wants. But I'm not reading into it too much. If I want to be here I have to earn my spot."

Beach, the Hawks' first-round draft pick (11th overall) with the reputation for bizarre behavior on and off the ice, made his pro debut in Friday's 4-3 win over the Minnesota Wild in an exhibition game at the United Center.

The Hawks would love it if Beach showed he was ready for the NHL at age 18, but the preseason will show if he has the maturity or if he needs another year of seasoning in junior hockey at Everett in the Western Hockey League.

Beach was a brawler in the WHL last season with 222 penalty minutes in 60 games, but he also put up 27 goals and 60 points.

Beach wasted little time getting into his first NHL fight, tangling with Minnesota's Marc-Andre Bergeron just 2:17 into the first period.

"He was pretty solid," Hawks coach Denis Savard said.

"Obviously I'm here to make an impression," Beach said. "I want to prove to the coaches and to the rest of the staff here that I'm ready, that I'm able and capable to play here. I'm just going to go out and do what I can in the role they want me to play. If a fight happens, it happens."

Patrick Kane started the game at center with Patrick Sharp and Jack Skille but quickly went back to playing wing. It appears to be an experiment that is over.

"Understanding where to be, it would take time and I don't know if we have it," Kane said. "I'm more comfortable at wing."

Savard said he would rethink the situation with Kane at center overnight.

"We're trying things," Savard said. "It doesn't say they're going to work."

Savard downplayed his reasoning for experimenting with Kane at center.

"Here's my thinking behind this," Savard said. "My six top forward are Kane, (Jonathan) Toews, (Dustin) Byfuglien, (Martin) Havlat, Sharp and (Andrew) Ladd. These are my top six guys. That's the reason I'm doing it, not because we don't have a center.

"These guys are going to play minutes. You want your best players on the ice because your best players win for you. These are the best six forward we've got."

For now, anyway, with the Hawks still looking to trade for an experienced center.

Goalie Cristobal Huet made his Hawks debut and allowed 3 goals in the first period before his teammates rallied for him on 2 goals apiece by Sharp and Ladd.

It was the first game in the preseason battle between Huet and Nikolai Khabibulin for the Oct. 10 start on opening night in New York. Khabibulin makes his first start in Sunday's exhibition game against Dallas at the United Center.