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Blackhawks eyeing Carolina's 'Canes' Cullen?
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 11/14/2009 7:36 PM

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San Jose Sharks at the United Center, 6 p.m.

TV: Comcast SportsNet

Radio: WGN 720-AM

What to watch: The Sharks owned the NHL's best record (13-4-3) going into Saturday's game at St. Louis thanks to an 8-0-2 mark in their last 10. Tough guy Jody Shelley and defenseman Rob Blake won't play.

Last season: The two teams split the series 2-2. Jonathan Toews had 5 goals in the four games.

Next: Calgary Flames at the Pengrowth Saddledome, 8 p.m.

The fact that Andrew Ebbett played less than nine minutes in Friday's win over Toronto might suggest the Blackhawks need to go out and find a replacement for the injured Dave Bolland at center on the second line.

It's believed, in fact, that general manager Stan Bowman is out there looking for a center - with multiple sources suggesting Carolina's Matt Cullen is somebody on the Hawks' radar.

The Hurricanes are off to a 2-12-4 start and a shake-up could be coming.

Cullen fits what the Hawks might be looking for - a responsible player with an offensive upside who does not come saddled with a long-term contract.

The 32-year-old Cullen has a $2.875 million cap hit and will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Cullen has 3 goals and 4 assists in 18 games and is minus-9 on the NHL's worst defensive team. But before this year he averaged 19 goals and 45 points over four seasons and was a plus player each year.

To add a player such as Cullen with a significant cap hit, the Hawks would need to either trade a similar contract or put Bolland on long-term injured reserve to free up money.

Bolland is on injured reserve following back surgery.

Tomas Kopecky took some shifts for Ebbett on the line between Patrick Kane and Kris Versteeg against the Leafs and finished with 15 minutes of ice time.

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville didn't have much to say on why he used Ebbett as little as he did.

"I tried different things on that line, maybe Versteeg at center a little bit, Ebbett at center, Kopecky and (Ben) Eager at the wing, Kopecky at center," Quenneville said.

Winning those draws: The Hawks ranked second in the NHL to San Jose at winning faceoffs before Saturday's games. The Hawks have won 54.4 percent of their draws, while the Sharks were at 57 percent.

Jonathan Toews ranked third individually with a 63.6 winning percentage, and John Madden was eighth at 57.1 percent. Buffalo's Paul Gaustad and San Jose's Scott Nichol ranked 1-2.

"As a center it's nice to win faceoffs and it's a lot tougher than it looks," Madden said. "We realize the importance of getting possession and we work real hard at it."

The Hawks rank No. 1 in penalty killing, and winning faceoffs is a big part of that success.

"We want to get better at it because we know what it leads to," Joel Quenneville said. "It was something from last year that we knew we had to improve upon."

Tip-ins: John Madden and Kris Versteeg were held out of practice Saturday to rest. - Cristobal Huet, who has lowered his goals-against average to 2.19 and lifted his save percentage to .905, starts in goal tonight against the Sharks.