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Blackhawks winger relishes leadership role, tops team scoring despite missing seven weeks with injury
Jim Matheson, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Saturday, February 10, 2007

EDMONTON - How good is Chicago Blackhawks right-winger Martin Havlat?

Better than Denis Savard ever was.

At least that's what Savard, Chicago's head coach, says. But he may just be faking us out, just like he did to so many NHL defencemen during his wonderful playing days as a Blackhawks centre.

How good was Savard? Well, his picture is in the Hall of Fame and his No. 18 jersey is hanging from the rafters at the United Center in the Windy City.

As for Havlat, we'll reserve judgment on the Czech for a few more years.

Savard, however, is a huge Havlat fan.

If Havlat stays healthy, he might be worth the $6 million US the Blackhawks are paying him. Nevertheless, he has still given his team a big bang for their buck this season.

Havlat left Friday's game against the Edmonton Oilers riding a five-game scoring streak after scoring a power-play goal in the third period to give him 21 goals and 41 points in 33 games. He was also plus-19 before the game, so he knows what to do in his end of the rink.

If he hadn't missed seven weeks with a bad groin injury, he'd now have at least 60 to 65 points.

"He's got a lot of tricks ... he shows a lot of different moves because of his speed," said Savard. "He'll beat you wide, through your legs. He tries to beat people one-on-one and what people forget is he's only 25-years-old.

"We have a young team, especially on defence, and we hope they all grow together."

Havlat, who had a shoulder problem last season when the toiled for the Senators in Ottawa, was part of a whiz-bang offence with Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza.

In Chicago, he's the main man. And he's up for the challenge.

"He wants to be the guy, and he is. That's what I like about him," said Savard. "I play him a lot of minutes every game. Like in Calgary (Tuesday night), I played him 29 minutes and guess what? He got better as the game went on (scoring two late goals)."

"No, I never played 29 minutes in a game in Ottawa," laughed Havlat, who wants the extra responsibility.

He's tired of getting hurt.

"I missed almost the whole season in Ottawa, then after seven games this

season, I got hurt again," said Havlat. "I know it's part of hockey, but it's not fun."

Havlat was often the secondary attack weapon in Ottawa, but he and Tuomo Ruutu are the big guns in Chicago.

"My role is a little different, but I think they expected a lot from me with the Senators, too," said Havlat, who can walk down Michigan Avenue and Chicago's Miracle Mile of stores without being pestered by autograph hounds.

It was a different story in Ottawa, where fans would often seek his signature at the Rideau Centre Mall.

But Havlat is adjusting well.

"From what I know of the past, Chicago is still a hockey city but they're just waiting for the team to win games. Even if we have an unsold arena, the people are still pretty loud in the rink. The fans will come.

"They're trying to rebuild the team."

Around Havlat.

For years, the Blackhawks had high hopes for players such as centres Mark Bell and Kyle Calder, but they were second or third-line talents, and they were eventually shuffled off in trades.

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