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Tallon says Barker's demotion a 'hockey decision'
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 10/8/2008 12:05 AM

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Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon called sending defenseman Cam Barker to the minors to start the season a "hockey decision" and not a salary cap consideration.

Barker, the third player taken in the 2004 draft, was assigned to Rockford of the American Hockey League on Tuesday after the Hawks decided to keep rookie Niklas Hjalmarsson as their sixth defenseman.

Barker would have counted $2.8 million against the salary cap. The Hawks will be $1.5 million under the NHL cap when they have to turn in their 22-man roster to the league office today.

"It was more a defense vs. offense decision," Tallon said. "The fact is Hjalmarsson had a better camp defensively. He's physical and he moves the puck well.

"We felt we had to improve our defense, and Cam's an offensive player and Hjalmarsson is a defensive player."

The Hawks say Barker still is a step slow when it comes to his skating.

"Cam had a decent camp, but there still are things he needs to work on," coach Denis Savard said. "His feet, we've got to continue to work with his feet and his overall game.

"We just want him to continue to improve. Who knows, he might be here in a month, a week, two months, I don't know that? But for now this is the best thing, for him to go back and play games down there. We still think he's going to be a great player for us."

Hjalmarsson practiced Tuesday with Brent Seabrook as his partner while Duncan Keith skated with Brian Campbell and Brent Sopel with Jordan Hendry.

Matt Walker made the club as the seventh defenseman. Keith Carney, a training camp tryout, was released.

Line it up: The Hawks will open the season with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland as their top three centers.

Either Adam Burish or Colin Fraser will center the fourth line. They both are expected to be in the lineup Friday against the Rangers in the season opener with winger Ben Eager likely to receive a suspension for swinging his stick at Sean Avery last week in Dallas.

Eager has a hearing with the NHL today.

Toews centered for Martin Havlat and Andrew Ladd at practice Tuesday with Sharp between Patrick Kane and Dustin Byfuglien.

The third line had Bolland with Jack Skille and Kris Versteeg.

"Things could change, but that's how we'll start," Denis Savard said.

Tough decision: Kevyn Adams was released along with Keith Carney. The popular Adams had been in camp on a tryout basis.

"Right now there's no room on the roster for him," Denis Savard said.

The Hawks kept Colin Fraser ahead of Adams.

Tip-ins: Dale Tallon said he had no interest in claiming Mark Bell, who was waived by Toronto. Bell earns more than $2 million a year. ... Goalie Antti Niemi and defenseman Aaron Johnson were assigned to Rockford with Cam Barker. ... No. 1 draft pick Kyle Beach and Akim Aliu were formally returned to their junior teams. ... Joakim Lindstrom was waived and claimed by Anaheim.