Road trip off to sweet start for Hawks

Tribune staff reporter

Sometime in the near future, the Blackhawks are hoping to be swarming with "B's."

In an amusing coincidence, all of the Hawks' better prospects—with the exception of Jonathan Toews—have last names that begin with the letter B—from Cam Barker to Dave Bolland to Michael Blunden to Dan Bertram …

To Troy Brouwer.

Drafted in the seventh round of the 2004 entry draft, the Vancouver native was taken 211 choices after the Hawks selected Barker. But Thursday night in Los Angeles, Brouwer was in the lineup for his fifth game of the season, just two fewer than the highly touted Barker.

The Hawks began this seven-game road trip with a 3-2 victory over the Kings on Lasse Kukkonen's fifth goal of the season 57 seconds into overtime.

The win increased their lead over Los Angeles to five points at the bottom of the Western Conference.

"Our guys battled hard. We stuck with it, it was a hard-fought game," said coach Denis Savard. "It's a big start to the trip. Take it one step at a time. It was a great effort from everyone."

Los Angeles struck first 76 seconds into the game when Alexander Frolov took advantage of a Duncan Keith turnover for his 26th goal of the season. Martin Havlat responded 1:17 later after two Kings defensemen whiffed on clearing attempts.

The Hawks had numerous chances to gain a comfortable lead, getting eight power plays in the first two periods, including two four-minute power plays and one two-man advantage for 58 seconds. But the Hawks didn't capitalize until the eighth power play, when Jeff Hamilton beat Sean Burke from the point to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead going into the third period.

The Kings' Jamie Lundmark tied the game at 2-2 seven minutes into the third period.

"Both of their goals were lucky bounces. We kept working and kept getting pucks deep," said Kukkonen.

Seventh-round draft choices normally aren't considered top prospects, although the Hawks have had some mild success late in the draft. Tyler Arnason was taken in the seventh round in 1998 and Eric Daze lasted until the fourth round in 1993.

Brouwer beat Bolland (second round, 2004) and Blunden (second round, 2005) to the NHL by doing in Norfolk of the American Hockey League what he did in his final year of juniors at Moose Jaw—score.

Brouwer, 21, was sixth in the AHL in scoring in his rookie season with 25 goals and 53 points in 44 games before being recalled. Last season in juniors he had 49 goals and 102 points in 72 games.

For a team starving for goals, the Hawks are hoping Brouwer brings the scoring touch to the NHL level.

"I have to get comfortable and get some shots first," he said. "I hope to be able to continue to score at this level like I have at the others."

But you can't score if you don't shoot and through four games, Brouwer still is looking for his first shot on goal.

"He has a major-league shot, he just has to get in a position where he can use it," Hawks general manager Dale Tallon said. "His first step has to get quicker, but overall, he has been fine."

Savard has been equally impressed with Brouwer and had him skating with Martin Havlat and Bryan Smolinski in Wednesday's practice.

"He has NHL poise, that's what I'm impressed about," Savard said. "As young as he is, you don't see it too often."

Savard said the 6-foot-3-inch, 220-pound Brouwer reminds him of a young Jason Allison, a prototypical power forward until repeated concussions cut his career short.

"He plays hard and is strong on the puck," Savard said. "He can be a top-line player."


From here, the Hawks go to San Jose to get their first look at the Sharks and former teammate Mark Bell. … Hawks assistant coach Mark Hardy was an assistant with the Kings last season. … Tallon said he won't necessarily wait until close to the trade deadline to make a deal. "If the deal is right, we'll do it whenever," he said.

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