Daily Herald
Havlat hurt in 1-0 opener loss
By Mike Spellman | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 10/5/2007 2:26 AM

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Blackhawks could have left Minnesota late Thursday night feeling pretty darn good about themselves after going toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the NHL before a frenzied sellout crowd at the Xcel Energy Center.

The reasons?

How about the play of Patrick Kane, who looked like anything but a rookie on offense in a dominant debut?

"He was tremendous, the best forward on the ice," Hawks coach Denis Savard gushed. "You just saw something special."

Or what about the play of goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who stood on his head time and again to keep his team in the game, stopping 23 shots, too many to count from point-blank range?

"Awesome," Savard said.

How about Adam Burish? Robert Lang? David Koci?

"I can't really single out someone who didn't play well tonight," Savard said.

Then Martin Havlat's name came up and things soured.

Because when the Hawks' go-to guy skated off the ice, bent over from the waist in obvious agony late in the third period after being sandwiched by a pair of Minnesota players in front of the Wild net, it suddenly didn't matter that they had played so well in dropping a 1-0 decision in the season opener.

What mattered was that after the game Havlat's right arm was in a sling and his right shoulder had already been X-rayed with results to be announced today.

It mattered what this would mean for a Hawks season that got off to such a promising start.

No one had an answer ... yet.

"The guy took a free punch at him and (Havlat) kind of lifted up his shoulder to protect himself," Savard said.

Now it will be a game of wait and see.

That was the storyline heading into Thursday's opener, but it was in anticipation of seeing Kane in action for the first time in a regular-season NHL game, seeing just how he'd fare.

Turned out pretty good for the youngster, who got 16:44 of ice time and played well in nearly every situation.

"That's why it's going to be fun for the fans to watch this kid," Savard said.

For Kane, it was fun just to finally be out there.

"I felt pretty good out there, actually," said the 18-year-old, who saved a puck from the game as a souvenir.

"I guess it could have been nicer if we got the win, but all in all, it was OK.

"I felt pretty good out there. I can see it coming along. I think it's just a matter of time before things start working."

Despite the loss, the Hawks seemed to have things working, except for the scoring part. Part of that was the unbelievable play of Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, who stopped all 27 shots he faced.

"He won the game for us tonight," said Wild coach Jacques Lemaire.

The week doesn't get any easier for the Hawks, who host Detroit on Saturday. But if they keep getting efforts like they did Thursday, Savard will be happy.

"Our guys gave it everything they had, it could have gone either way," he said. "I thought the effort was tremendous."