By Michael Russo
Wild coughed up a 3-0 first-period lead tonight, and I don’t want to say I told you so, but every person that came up to me during the first intermission that said, “Holy moly,” I responded with, “It ain’t over, trust me.”
Of course, this was completely different. Wild was playing a different cast of characters tonight, and certain guys like defenseman Maxim Noreau, you could see their hands shaking from up here.
Erik Reitz was a minus-3, and played pivotal roles on both the first and fourth goals by Chicago — both by Andrew Ladd.
Jacques Lemaire was honest in his assessment of Reitz:
“It starts by him wanting to freeze the puck on the side of the net,” said coach Jacques Lemaire, referring to Reitz trying to pin the puck under goalie Josh Harding moments before Ladd cut Chicago’s deficit to 3-1.
“You’ve got to learn. It’s experience. You know, you’ve got big guys there. You got a stick and try to hold onto the puck, it’s not happening. Too many big guys.”
On the winner, Jonathan Toews drove the Wild zone 1 against 4. He wheeled by Reitz before feeding an oncoming Ladd.
Reitz is on a one-way deal, which usually puts you in a position where you’re going to be on the team: see Matt Foy.
But Tomas Mojzis has impressed, and Reitz says he’s not taking that roster spot for granted.
“He’s got to work, even if he would be on the team, he’s got to work to play,” Lemaire said of Reitz. “I’m going to play the best guys. That’s it. Some of the guys, they have to realize, it’s important these games. It might not seem important, but it is important because I’m watching them.
“I mean, I had a feeling at a time, maybe I’m going to bench a couple guys. So when you’re in an exhibition game and you feel you want to bench certain guys, oh oh oh, that’s not good for you, man. That’s not good.
“But we kept playing them, but you know what, the closer we get to the season, the less chances they get.”
– Other tidbits:
1. Typical Jacques Lemaire. The coach completely disagreed with the Danny Irmen board the other night. He wanted the kid to know it, so he not only decided to give him another shot tonight, he put him in the starting lineup.
Well, you can bet Irmen earned another exhibition game. Lemaire praised his play bigtime after, the way he skated, his effort, etc.
2. Jacques also praised Eric Belanger, James Sheppard and Colton Gillies.
3. The Wild could have made this a rout early, but after it took a 3-0 lead, Lemaire gave power-play time to every single skater on the team. That obviously wouldn’t have happened in the regular season, so take this game with a grain of salt. Also, and Stephane Veilleux pointed this out to me after, if this were a regular season game and the Wild took a 3-0 lead, Jacques would have stuck out the checking line and the Wild probably would have been able to check its way to the finish and ultimate victory.
4. Proof that the plus-minus sometimes is a meaningless stat? Gillies was a minus-3 tonight, and he was solid. Lemaire pointed that out, too.
5. Marek Zidlicky made a ridiculous play on Petr Kalus’ goal. Hopefully you all can find highlights of this game so you can see it.
6. I am hoping to take the day off tomorrow, so Brian “Stencils” Stensaas will on to blog from practice in St. Paul. I’ll catch up with you all again Sunday in Buffalo.
7. I had to cut this Keith Carney story dramatically for the second edition, and this Patrick Kane note, so I figure, here’s a good use for the blog. I talked to a few Blackhawks people today, and it’s 50-50 that he makes the team. They’re concerned with his footwork.
By Michael Russo
CHICAGO – Keith Carney hasn’t tried out for a team in 25 years, so this has been a humbling experience for the 38-year-old defenseman, a veteran of 1,018 NHL games.
But it was either try out for the Chicago Blackhawks or retire, making the decision an easy one.
“I contemplated retirement at the end of the summer, but my family said, ‘Why stop now?’ And there’s really no reason to,” said Carney, a plus-30 the past two seasons with the Wild. “I’m healthy, I’m still having fun and I know I can still help a team.”
Carney talked to the Blackhawks all summer, but they were $3 million over the salary cap until they traded Robert Lang to Montreal on Sept. 12.
So Carney, who played for the Blackhawks from 1993-98, agreed to a tryout and donned a Blackhawks sweater for the first time in a decade during Friday’s exhibition game against his old team, the Wild.
“I talked with some teams, but nobody wanted to commit a contract,” Carney said. “It’s been very hard. Last year definitely hurt me. Just playing 61 games [and limited minutes], that’s going to hurt a player going into free agency. But I can’t dwell on that. You just try to stay positive, work out, get in shape and give this a try.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I feel this is a good fit.”
Carney spent the past two years mentoring youngsters like Brent Burns, and he says, “that’s a role I take pride in doing.”
Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman, now the Blackhawks’ senior advisor to hockey operations, said if Carney proves he warrants a contract, he could have a similar effect on young defensemen Brent Seabrook, Cam Barker and Duncan Keith.
“[Carney] played a lot of games here and [the Blackhawks] know him well,” Bowman said. “He’s a pro. Their defense is going to be good, but it’s pretty young. They’re looking for some veteran presence on the team, and Keith could maybe be that guy.”
However, Seabrook, Keith, Barker, Brian Campbell and Brent Sopel are guaranteed spots, meaning there’s probably only two jobs left.
“[Carney’s] an experienced guy, but like anybody else, he’s trying to make this team,” coach Denis Savard said. “We expect a good performance from him. Even though he’s been around the league, we have 12 defensemen left here and we have some tough calls to make.”
Kane center of attention
Patrick Kane, 19, won the Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year) last season by leading all rookies with 72 points as a winger.
Friday, Kane auditioned as a center, a position he hasn’t played since he was 15
“I never really played this caliber of level,” Kane said Friday morning. “It’ll definitely be an adjustment, always being the guy low in the defensive zone. But it could be a good thing for me. I’ll get the puck in the middle of the ice more and be able to be more creative and make more plays.
“But it’ll be difficult, especially against bigger, talented guys like [Marian] Gaborik. It’s good for me [he didn’t play Friday].”