Daily Herald
Savard lets team have it following lackluster loss
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 1/25/2008 12:17 AM

Those hits the Blackhawks took from the Columbus Blue Jackets in their 1-0 loss Thursday night at the United Center were nothing compared to the shots coach Denis Savard laid on them after the game.

An angry Savard ripped into his team for failing to deliver the proper effort in what was an important game for the Hawks on so many levels.

"I'm disappointed and (ticked) off about the effort," Savard said. "This is a divisional game, we're fighting for our lives here, we want to get in the playoffs, we have a nice crowd, and this is what they give us?

"I think they forgot last summer or two summers ago or three summers ago what we gave them. We commit to them and they're very happy when they sign it … well, commit to us, commit to the jersey, commit to the people here."

Savard refused to name names, saying to reporters that they know who he's talking about.

Forwards Martin Havlat, Robert Lang and Tuomo Ruutu each signed contracts worth in the millions. Havlat is the highest-paid Hawks forward at $6 million a year.

"I don't care, skill, no skill -- to gain an inch in this league you've got to want to do it, you've got to want to work," Savard said. "It's going to be tough, you might get a cut, you might get bruised, but so what? The last time I checked they're getting pretty good money to do it.

"I don't care, you've got to play hard, you've got to compete, you've got to go to the net -- if you get cut, too bad, that's the way it is," Savard said, his voice rising. "You go in our locker room and I guarantee you there's nobody wearing an ice pack or getting stitches done, none of them.

"But go in their (Blue Jackets') locker room. I guarantee they've got a bunch of guys with ice packs. I think my message is pretty clear, and I won't accept it."

A win in their final game before the all-star break could have put the Hawks two games over .500, but instead they are 23-23-4 and 6 points behind Columbus.

It also was the Hawks' final appearance on home ice before a seven-game road trip. By the time the Hawks return to the UC on Feb. 17, they could be dead and buried in the Western Conference playoff race.

It also was a big game for goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who started for the first time since a Jan. 11 loss to Minnesota.

Khabibulin was solid, beaten only on a redirection by Crystal Lake native Jared Boll in the second period.

"I knew I needed to play well and I thought I did," Khabibulin said. "I'm not happy we lost, but at the same time I'm happy with the way I played."

Khabibulin was about the only one Savard didn't lump into his postgame outburst.

"We just didn't battle," Savard said. "It doesn't matter how skilled you are, you've got to want to battle, period. If you don't want to battle, you won't play here."

The power play again was a mess, going 0-for-5 and never threatening once to beat goalie Pascal Leclaire, whose eighth shutout might have been his easiest.