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Kontiola fails to impress; Hawks send him down
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 10/2/2008 12:06 AM

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It took only two preseason games, but the Blackhawks saw all they needed to see of Petri Kontiola.

Which wasn't much.

Expected to compete for the second-line center job following the trade of Robert Lang to Montreal, Kontiola was unimpressive in two exhibition games and Wednesday was one of three forward assigned to Rockford of the American Hockey League.

Kontiola had a goal in his two games but was minus-3 and had trouble keeping up. Even after the first several scrimmages in training camp, coach Denis Savard remarked that Kontiola appeared fatigued.

"He didn't have a good camp," general manager Dale Tallon said. "He just didn't have any jump. I was expecting a lot more. He's disappointed, too."

With Kontiola out of the picture, it leaves Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp as the Hawks' top two centers. Tallon confirmed he is still trying to fix his roster before the Oct. 10 opener in New York against the Rangers.

He is no doubt looking to acquire an experienced center.

"I'm still working on getting something done," Tallon said. "We have a good team. We could be a really good team if we can get the right player."

Trading Nikolai Khabibulin remains an option. Khabibulin cleared waivers on Tuesday and will accompany the team to Dallas for Thursday night's exhibition game, although Tallon said Antti Niemi would start.

"He's still with us," Tallon said, referring to Khabibulin. "Just because he cleared waivers doesn't mean he's not going to be with the team."

Sent to Rockford with Kontiola were wingers Evan Brophey and Pascal Pelletier.

Tallon still believes Kontiola will figure into the Hawks' plans down the road.

"He had a great chance, and sometimes when that happens guys try too hard," Tallon said. "Based on what he did over the summer, I thought for sure he's be ready to go. He's a good player. He just has to improve his fitness level, go to Rockford, skate and get his timing back."