Rambler's Top100

20 2007 . 
Savard sees potential in Alexeev // Daily Herald

By Tim Sassone
Nikita Alexeev has been with the Blackhawks for only a few weeks, but already he has been lumped into a group that includes Rene Bourque, Patrick Sharp, Radim Vrbata, Michael Holmqvist, Jeff Hamilton, Denis Arkhipov and Tony Salmelainen.

These are the Hawks forwards who are considered on the bubble when it comes to fitting into the teams plans for next season. They have had their good moments, but mostly they have been inconsistent offensively, helping create the Hawks biggest problem area.

Alexeev has all the tools to be a top-six forward in coach Denis Savards opinion. He has the size at 6-feet-6 and 227 pounds, good hands and better than average skill.

But in seven games with the Hawks since being acquired from Tampa Bay, Alexeev was noticeable only last Thursday at Los Angeles, when he scored a goal and added another to win the shootout.

He has a quick release, and he holds on to the puck probably better than any one of our guys down low, but I want to see consistency, Savard said. His conditioning wasnt really good when he got here to play more minutes, but its better now, so well see these last few games. Im going to use him in every situation to see what he can do.

Hes got a big body, and we need to get bigger.

Savard will use Alexeev on a line with Tuomo Ruutu and Jeff Hamilton tonight against the Blue Jackets in Columbus.

As the Hawks look to upgrade their top-six forwards for next season, right now it would appear that only Ruutu, Martin Havlat and Jason Williams are set in those positions going into training camp. Michal Handzus would be a fourth top-six forward if he elected to re-sign as an unrestricted free agent.

(Alexeev) might be part of our puzzle, Savard said. To play in this league he has to be a top-six guy, but his skill has to show, and he has to put some points up on the board.

Power surge? The Hawks spent the better part of Mondays practice working on the power play.

Our power play has been better, said Denis Savard. I think in the last 16 or 17 games weve been up around 20 percent.

Savard has made a subtle change in the last week, using more of a three-man umbrella-like setup on the top with Martin Havlat, Cam Barker and Jason Williams.

Weve kind of gone to a spread, Savard said. I want those three to work the puck around and get shots through. Thats what all the good power plays do. We want teams to be passive against us because of good puck movement.

College corner: Now that the University of Wisconsins season is over, its expected the Hawks will be talking to Jack Skille about possibly leaving school and going to play at Norfolk.

Skille, the Hawks No. 1 draft pick in 2005, just completed his sophomore season for the Badgers.

Jonathan Toews season at the University of North Dakota is continuing in an NCAA regional. The Fighting Sioux play Michigan on Saturday in Denver.

There has been speculation that Skille is ready to leave school, while Toews is said to be undecided.

Tip-ins: Even though he has played in only four games with the Hawks, David Kocis 72 penalty minutes already rank third on the team. Tuomo Ruutu and Brent Seabrook each have 89 penalty minutes. Radim Vrbata, who has missed the last two games with a wrist problem, is expected to play tonight in Columbus.

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