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Huet continues to outdo himself with great net work
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff

Blackhawks goaltender Cristobal Huet

 

Associated Press

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Published: 12/2/2009 9:22 PM

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While there certainly are bigger tests to come, Cristobal Huet right now is playing as well as any goaltender in the NHL.

Huet's performance in the shootout against Columbus on Tuesday might have been his high point in a season that couldn't have started any worse for him.

Huet stopped 10 of 11 attempts by the Blue Jackets in the shootout marathon, giving the Hawks nine opportunities to win the game, which they finally did 4-3 on Brent Seabrook's goal.

"He's been playing great, keeping us in games," Seabrook said. "We have lots of confidence in him and it's nice to get some wins for him."

Huet has won eight of his last 10 starts, losing only in Anaheim last Friday when the Hawks were shut out 3-0, then the next night in a shootout at Los Angeles. Huet has allowed 2 or fewer goals in eight of those 10 games with his 2.16 goals-against average ranking fifth in the league before Wednesday's games.

Huet has worked his way back from the depths of a terrible start when his save percentage sat at .844 after six starts.

"Give him credit," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I know it was tough around here at the beginning of the year, and he responded. He welcomed the challenge. He's out challenging, he looks like he's in control on his rebounds, he's concentrating on the puck and just seems like he's on top of not just the crease, but on top of his game."

The inside story: So what is happening on the Hawks' bench when a shootout gets extended to 11 rounds?

"All of a sudden everyone starts lobbying a little bit as we get deeper and deeper and it makes for a little more entertainment on the bench," Joel Quenneville said.

Does the coach listen to suggestions from the players?

"Sometimes," Quenneville said, laughing.

The defensemen were pushing for Brent Seabrook to go in the 11th round, and Quenneville went with it, deciding on Seabrook over Cam Barker and his two remaining forwards, Colin Fraser and Ben Eager.

"Shootouts are not as intense as the game is," Quenneville said. "It's certainly a fun situation. I think the tension goes to the guy going up as the shooter."

Brent Seabrook admitted he was nervous for his first-ever shootout attempt.

"Some guys that have been through it before, they're a little more comfortable with it," Quenneville said. "Guys that are going for the first time, it's a different challenge, especially when you've got a chance to win a game and it's your first time in front of 22,000."

Big Hoss: That's 2 goals (plus another in Tuesday's shootout) and 2 assists in four games for Marian Hossa.

Not bad for a guy who is still trying to find his legs after not playing for five months.

"Marian, obviously, is one of the best players in the whole league, so when you can get him out there doing the things he's doing, it's pretty special." Hawks center Kris Versteeg said. "He's a big-time player and that's why we went out and got him. You've seen that in the first few games he's played."

Hossa played almost 22 minutes against the Blue Jackets.

"I'm just happy I scored and we won the game," Hossa said. "Good teams find ways to win. I'm trying to get more and more in my legs every game and get used to the guys I'm playing with and the new system."

Tip-ins: The Hawks won 63 percent of the faceoffs against Columbus, with Kris Versteeg going 10-2, Jonathan Toews 14-8 and John Madden 8-4. - Look for Antti Niemi to get a start this weekend, either Friday against Nashville at the United Center or Saturday at Pittsburgh.