Penguins Notebook: Chicago's Havlat won't be overlooked

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When Martin Havlat played in Ottawa, he often was overshadowed by the likes of Daniel Alfredsson, Marian Hossa and Zdeno Chara.

Now that he's in Chicago, he's part of a team that sometimes struggles to get attention in its home city, let alone other parts of North America.

But there's very little chance the Penguins will overlook Havlat at 7:38 p.m. today when the Blackhawks visit Mellon Arena.

Not if they have any interest in extending their 11-0-2 run, anyway.

Havlat has scored goals in six consecutive games and has 22 goals and 22 assists in 34 games this season. If he had been able to stay healthy, those numbers would put him on an 82-game pace for 106 points.

"He's got a very good points-per-game [average], so I'm sure he's not flying completely under the radar," Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "But with the fact that maybe they don't have the notoriety of some other teams, he's not getting the attention he deserves."

That could change if Havlat maintains his pace of late -- seven goals and four assists in the past six games -- or if word begins to circulate of the impact his presence has on the Hawks' record: They are 16-15-3 with him in the lineup, 6-12-4 when he hasn't played.

"He's real quick with the puck, makes quick decisions and he's very shifty," Scuderi said. "He's got good agility with the puck. He's a dangerous player."

Favorable review

At practice yesterday at Southpointe, the Penguins wore a version of the sleek new "uniform system" that will be used by all teams next season, and gave it favorable reviews.

"It's the first time I've worn them, and I was pleasantly surprised that there wasn't much difference, really," defenseman Mark Eaton said, adding that, "They're not going to make things so that they're uncomfortable."

Jocelyn Thibault said he and fellow goalie Marc-Andre Fleury thought the jerseys were a bit snug at the elbow, but both offered an overall thumbs-up.

"It was a little bit tighter, but it's so flexible," Fleury said. "We've been playing with the old [version] for so long that we're used to it ... but it will be good to try [the new]."

Brother act

Penguins winger Jarkko Ruutu strikes many people as the kind of guy who would run over his own brother to make a play.

Tonight, he'll get a chance to prove it, because his younger brother, Tuomo, is a forward with the Blackhawks.

"I play him the same way as anybody else," Jarkko Ruutu said. "So does he. He hits hard."

Even though they faced each other several times when Jarkko Ruutu played for Vancouver, the brothers' meetings still are special.

"There's a little bit of mixed emotions," Jarkko Ruutu said. "When you play against him, you want him to do well, but at the same time, you want to win. You kind of keep watching what he's doing. It's hard to explain."

What isn't so difficult is understanding that the younger Ruutu is a bigger cog in his team's offense; Tuomo has 12 goals and 18 assist in 46 games, while Jarkko has four and seven in 37.

"We're different types of players," Jarkko Ruutu said. "Obviously, he's way better with the puck, a lot more talented that way. He works hard, and deserves everything he's gotten."

Slap shots

Winger Nils Ekman participated in a practice yesterday for the first time since his elbow was dislocated Dec. 29 and said that, barring complications, he hopes to get clearance to take contact next week. He still does not have a target date for returning to the lineup. ... Mario Lemieux, the Penguins' chairman, attended the practice but did not take questions from reporters. ... Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar will appear in his 800th NHL game tonight. ... The Blackhawks are 4-2 on their current seven-game road trip, their longest of the season. ... Chicago winger Karl Stewart, acquired on waivers from the Penguins Oct. 26, has two goals and three assists in 37 games.

Jimmy Jeong, Associated Press
The Blackhawks' Martin Havlat has scored goals in six consecutive games and has 22 goals and 22 assists in 34 games this season.
Click photo for larger image.

Scouting report

Matchup: Chicago Blackhawks at Penguins, 7:38 p.m. today, Mellon Arena.

TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WXDX-FM (105.9).

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Nikolai Khabibulin for Blackhawks.

Penguins: Have four victories, two ties in past six home games against Hawks. ... D Brooks Orpik does not have goal in 100 games. ... Have scored eight 5-on-3 goals and allowed just one.

Blackhawks: Have earned half of their 22 victories on road. ... Power play is NHL's worst, with success rate of 11.7 percent. ... Are 4-2-4 when tied after two periods.

Hidden stat: Chicago has been outscored, 60-29, in the second period.



Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com .


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