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Blackhawks connection four-deep at Awards

by Bob Condor
LAS VEGAS -- While they didn't quite make it to the Stanley Cup Final, the resurgent Chicago Blackhawks are well represented at the 2009 NHL Awards.

Last year's Calder Memorial Trophy winner, Pat Kane, will be presenting the rookie award Thursday night at the Pearl Theater show (Versus, live, 7:30 p.m. ET and CBC, tape delay, 8:30 p.m. ET) in the Palms Casino Resort. One of the Calder nominees is Kane's teammate Kris Versteeg.

"Kris does a lot of things on the ice," said Ed Olczyk, the former Blackhawk who now works as a TV commentator for the team and also gigs with NBC and Versus. "He kills penalties, plays when the teams are 4-on-4. He is still learning how to play the game, but there were times this season when he was the dominant (offensive) player on the ice. That's saying a lot for the a team like the Blackhawks."

Chicago legend Stan Mikita, here to present the Art Ross and Maurice "Rocket" Richard trophies for the players to lead the NHL in regular-season points and goals, says Versteeg is a "tough, hard-nosed kid who doesn't mind going in the corners." That's high praise from Mikita, who is one of the sport's all-time great two-way centers.

"What's impressive about Kris is his game when you consider his size," said Mikita. "I saw him this afternoon and he can't be any bigger than 5-10 and 165 pounds."

Olczyk is here to present the King Clancy Memorial Trophy to "the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community." Speaking of community, Eddie O says he can't walk down a Chicago street these days without hellos and cheers from Blackhawks fans.

"The 'Hawks are relevant again," said Olczyk. "There is a belief and hope in these players. That has been missing for a long time. The team is back on the city's radar."

And up for significant screen time in Vegas, too. 

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