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Hawks now thinking about Havlat past this year
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 1/29/2009 12:01 AM

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ANAHEIM, Calif. - Maybe, just maybe, Martin Havlat is playing himself back into the Blackhawks' future.

Havlat, who was the Hawks' best forward heading into the all-star break, will be an unrestricted free agent after the season and all along it was believed there was no interest on the part of the organization in bringing him back.

The Hawks now are at least considering trying to re-sign Havlat when the time comes, but not at the $6 million he presently earns.

"It would have to be at the right price," a Hawks official said. "But, yeah, why not consider it?"

Re-signing Havlat for somewhere around $4 million a year might interest the Hawks, but it's doubtful the veteran winger would agree to a pay cut.

However, many predict the downturn in the economy will dramatically affect NHL free agency next summer just as it has with major-league baseball, where many stars remain unsigned approaching spring training.

For Havlat, getting anywhere near another $6 million a year could be difficult considering his injury history.

Back to normal: Duncan Keith's return from missing four games with concussion-like symptoms Wednesday against the Ducks was welcome news to his teammates on defense.

"Whenever you're missing a top-six guy things are going to be a little out of whack," James Wisniewski said. "We can get our set pairings back together and start playing like we should."

Keith was a team-best plus-23 when he went out of the lineup.

"It's nice to have him back in our lineup because he means a lot to us," coach Joel Quenneville said.

Goalie rotation: Joel Quenneville said he likely would rotate goalies Nikolai Khabibulin and Cristobal Huet throughout the eight-game road trip, although those plans could change.

"I think we're going to start that way and the likelihood of completing it like that is probably there, but we don't want to commit to that," Quenneville said. "We'll see how it all plays out."

Khabibulin started Wednesday for the 24th time. Huet has made 22 starts.

"They both should be commended on how they've played and probably deserve more time in the net," Quenneville said. "They're handled it as best they can. I think they both want to play more and I like that they both have the appetite for more time in the net. It's competitive, but at the same time they are respectful of the situation."

Nice getaway: After Saturday night's game at San Jose, the Hawks have changed travel plans and will head to Las Vegas for two days before moving on to Western Canada to continue their trip.

The Hawks will watch Sunday's Super Bowl as a team and practice Monday at the Orleans Hotel.

"It's such a long trip that it might get our minds off what we have to do," Joel Quenneville said.

Tip-ins: Hawks senior adviser Scotty Bowman is on the trip. - The Hawks on Wednesday hired former NHL goaltender Wade Flaherty as a development goaltending coach to assist goalie coach Stephane Waite. - Aaron Johnson and Pascal Pelletier were healthy scratches. Kris Versteeg sat with a finger injury.

Blackhawks vs. Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center, 9:30 p.m.

TV: Channel 9

Radio: WGN 720-AM

At a glance: The Hawks are 0-1 against the Kings, playing one of their worst games of the season Nov. 29 in a 5-2 loss at Los Angeles. Cristobal Huet started that game and wasn't very good, but he gets the call again tonight. The Kings (19-20-7) are last in the Pacific Division.

Next: San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion, 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

- Tim Sassone