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Hawks put unproductive veterans on alert
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 10/27/2007 12:09 AM

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Clearly the bright spot for the Blackhawks so far through 10 games has been the play of rookies Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

The teenagers have carried the Hawks on their backs to a large extent for a 5-5 start, while many of the veterans being counted on to produce haven't met the challenge.

And if it continues, more and more veterans could lose their jobs. Center Dave Bolland was recalled from Rockford on Friday, and there might be several forwards on their way behind him.

This week alone, center Yanic Perreault and left wing Rene Bourque were healthy scratches for games -- and tonight it'll be struggling winger Sergei Samsonov sitting out when the Atlanta Thrashers visit the United Center.

Samsonov still is looking for his first goal and is minus-6 after 10 games. Perreault also has no goals and is minus-4, while Bourque is scoreless and minus-3.

"They haven't scored and they've been minus players, not that they haven't played hard at times… but numbers don't lie," Savard said. "I'm not giving up on any of those guys. I just feel that maybe Bolland will bring us more.

"You've got to look at what's there, and numbers don't lie."

The Hawks took on Samsonov's $3.5 million contract in a trade with Montreal even though the 29-year-old left wing scored only 9 goals in 63 games last season.

"I haven't played like I would have liked, so it's kind of frustrating," he said. "I'm trying to be positive about it. Some games I feel I'm getting opportunities and some games I feel like I can't get anything going."

Samsonov admitted it was possible he has been trying too hard to make a good impression with his new team.

"Obviously you want to forget last year and establish yourself with a new team," he said. "But I haven't felt any pressure."

Bolland will center the third line for Adam Burish and possibly Perreault on a wing.

Savard said Bourque would play against the Thrashers on the fourth line with Kevyn Adams and Martin Lapointe.

"Samsonov and Perreault are used to playing on top lines, but if you look at our top six forwards it's tough for me to take them out, and I can't," Savard said, referring to Robert Lang, Patrick Sharp, Jason Williams, Toews, Kane and Tuomo Ruutu.

"We feel we have to upgrade the so-called third line, and Bolland will give us some grit and some character. He'll bring us energy, skill, and he's going to play the power play with Lang on the goal line."

Time may be running out for Bourque to show he can be the kind of productive power forward the Hawks thought he could be.

"I had a meeting with him the other day and I told him my expectations haven't changed," Savard said.

Bolland could be the first of several call-ups from Rockford, with forwards such as Jack Skille, Evan Brophey, Mike Blunden and Troy Brouwer waiting in the wings.

"There's a bunch of them that can play," Savard said. "Some of them are not quite as ready as others, but they might be ready, and if we feel we need to bring them up we will."

Scouting report

Blackhawks vs. Atlanta Thrashers at the United Center, 7:30 p.m.

TV: None

Radio: WSCR 670-AM

The skinny: Here comes a team the Hawks should beat -- everyone else is. The Thrashers are 2-8 and already have fired coach Bob Hartley following an 0-6 start. General manager Don Waddell is the interim coach. The Thrashers have had difficulty scoring (21 goals in 10 games) and are coming off a 3-0 loss Thursday at Nashville. This is the fourth stop on a seven-game road trip that potentially could bury the team that won the Southeast Division last season.

Player to watch: Ilya Kovalchuk. The Thrashers may be struggling, but Kovalchuk is one of the NHL's stars.

Next game: Wednesday vs. the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center, 7:30 p.m.