The guys who play the best this weekend will play opening night.
That was Blackhawks coach Denis Savard's edict to his players Friday as the team gets set to close out the preseason with back-to-back games this weekend in St. Louis and Minnesota. The training camp roster currently stands at 30 players with at least 7 cuts coming early next week.
One of those 30 needing to make a quick impression is newcomer Karel Pilar (kuh REHL PEE lahsh), who the Hawks claimed off waivers Thursday from Atlanta.
"He gives us a little more experience," Savard said. "We'll evaluate him this weekend and see how he plays. I like his size and he’s a guy that plays with lots of passion and can be physical."
Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon and assistant general manager Rick Dudley liked what they saw of the 6-2, 206-pound defenseman playing for Toronto in the American Hockey League last season.
"They expect me to move the puck well and play good defensively," Pilar said Friday after his first practice as a Blackhawk. "It's a great opportunity for me and I'm excited to be here with a team that has so much history."
Hawks winger Martin Havlat was a teammate of Pilar's playing for Sparta in the Czech Republic during the lockout.
"He's offensive-minded with a good shot," Havlat said. "He's smart with the puck and hopefully he'll fit in here."
Not quite ready: Havlat (groin) and LW Tuomo Ruutu (knee) remain out of practice and will not play Saturday. Savard said they both might play Sunday but should definitely be fine for the season opener Oct. 4 ... C Jonathan Toews is still recovering from a broken finger and should be ready for the home opener Oct. 6 if not for opening night.
Itching to go: Center Dave Bolland, a 2nd round pick in 2004, will see his first game action this weekend now that he is fully recovered from a laceration to the back of his knee suffered early in training camp.
Netminding: Patrick Lalime will be in goal Saturday against St. Louis with Nikolai Khabibulin getting a final tune-up Sunday in Minnesota.
Point man: Jason Williams will stay on the point with the man advantage this weekend with Robert Lang playing in front of the net. Savard said the power play rotation is pretty well set for the season with Havlat, Patrick Kane, Yanic Perreault, Sergei Samsonov and Toews all expected to get plenty of minutes with Williams and Lang.
Pure talent: Kane converted both of his shootout attempts at the end of practice Friday, impressing Savard with his ability to read the goalie's position and respond with two different moves -- the first came on a high backhand flip; the second came on a low shot. When asked whether you could teach that or if it was talent, Savard simply smiled and said, "Talent."
Friday's line combinations: