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Hawks GM Tallon will use road trip to evaluate Hawks
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff

Hawks GM Dale Tallon


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Published: 1/26/2009 12:00 AM

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Nobody will be watching how the Blackhawks do on their eight-game road trip and through a difficult schedule in February closer than general manager Dale Tallon.

The Hawks sit in fourth place in the Western Conference coming out of the all-star break, and where they are a few weeks from now likely will show Tallon what moves, if any, to make ahead of the NHL's March 4 trade deadline.

While the message boards are full of fans clamoring for Tallon to make a trade with the Hawks sputtering (5-6-1 since Dec. 30), the GM admitted he is leaning toward standing pat with the team that will resume play Wednesday at Anaheim with 58 points, 5 ahead of fifth-place Phoenix.

It certainly doesn't appear, as of now, that Nikolai Khabibulin or Martin Havlat are going anywhere despite the fact they will be unrestricted free agents in July and could leave with the Hawks getting nothing in return.

"We've got a tough six weeks coming up," Tallon said. "We've got a tough month of February on the road and that will tell what we're doing and where we're going."

The goal still is to make the playoffs, but the longer the Hawks show fourth place and home ice in the first round of the playoffs is a possibility, the more Tallon and his staff will need to at least consider making a deal to add an experienced player such as a center.

"We'll see how it goes," Tallon said. "Guys are playing really well and, touch wood, everybody stays healthy. If we continue to stay in the position we're in, then we'll let them go.

"I'd rather add energy from a young kid like a (Jack) Skille or (Niklas) Hjalmarsson because in the big picture that's more beneficial to us."

While Tallon would love to find a spot to bring Skille back from Rockford when he recovers from a mild concussion, the opportunity to go a few rounds in the playoffs almost certainly would make the Hawks' front office consider added a player or two at the deadline.

"We're looking big picture," Tallon said. "It depends on where we are at the deadline. Maybe we'll feel we've got to make a move, but we're not going to mortgage our future just for a Band-Aid. It has to be the right deal."

A top-nine forward would be at the head of the list and perhaps another defenseman.

The Hawks have two rookies playing on the top two lines in Kris Versteeg and Troy Brouwer, and it might be asking a lot for them to keep playing the way they have down the stretch and into the playoffs.

The Hawks have gotten a lot of mileage out of Versteeg and Brouwer, both of whom weren't counted on to do what they have done.

"We expected Versteeg to be offensive moving forward, but not right away like this," Tallon said.

A few of the players who figure to get traded who might be on the Hawks' radar are Bill Guerin, Kyle Calder, Chris Neil, Nik Antropov, Doug Weight and Mike Sillinger.

While the Hawks reached the all-star break with just 1 win in the last four games (1-2-1) and looking weary, overall it has been a great start to the season at 25-12-8.

"We expected to be better than last year at this time, and we've done that," Tallon said. "We're looking to make the playoffs and would be happy in any playoff spot, but where we are now is ahead of where we thought we'd be."

The goaltending of Khabibulin and Cristobal Huet has been the one constant strength from the start. It's why Khabibulin might be more valuable staying put.

"You couldn't ask for our goaltending to be any better," Tallon said. "That's what we hoped for, but we didn't know the reality of it happening.

"Give both guys a lot of credit for the way they've handled themselves. I'm sure they'd both like to play more, but that's a good thing, too. They've been very professional."