– It's been 10 games since the Chicago Blackhawks
acquired defenseman Chris Campoli
from the Ottawa Senators
on trade deadline day, and early reviews are all positive.
Campoli, a puck-moving defenseman who isn't shy about joining the play on the offensive end, has fit right into the Hawks' stable of similar-style blueliners – scoring a goal and adding a pair of assists since coming to Chicago.
His presence became even more valuable after a foot injury sidelined Brian Campbell
for four of the past six games.
"The saying goes in our business you can never have enough D," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville
said following the team's morning skate Saturday. "Your depth will always get challenged and exposed at some point in the season and he came in at a vital time for us, in need of playing some minutes – and important minutes. It's nice knowing he's capable of doing a lot of things. Whether it's offensively or defensively, he complements what we're looking to do on the ice."
In other words, Campoli has been exactly what the Hawks thought they were getting.
"They wanted to go out and find a guy that could play some minutes, move the puck and fit into their style of play as a team, and I was lucky enough to be that guy," Campoli said "Right when I got here the guys welcomed me with open arms, and it seemed like there was chemistry there with the style of play and the way I try to play my game. So far, it's been a really good fit."
It doesn't hurt that Chicago, which faces the Anaheim Ducks
on Saturday night, is battling for a playoff spot in the tight Western Conference standings. It's a completely opposite mind-set from his previous stop, where the Senators are jockeying for positioning in the 2011 Entry Draft while sitting in last place of the Eastern Conference.
"It's a great opportunity for me personally," said Campoli, whose combined season stats are 4 goals and 18 points with an even rating. "It's a great team and I think we've got a legitimate chance to win here. That's exciting.
"Right away, when I came here Joel was adamant about me playing my game and being aggressive. It's a puck-possession team. We're aggressive all the time. We like to play a puck possession style and put people on their heels."
Campoli started off being paired with Campbell to form an impressive puck-controlling duo. Now he's working with Niklas Hjalmarsson
, which is also going well. Campoli's flexibility also plays well with Quenneville, who likes to mix things up before games and on the fly.
"I told him that I'll play wherever he wants to put me," Campoli said. "I'll play the left or right side, it doesn't matter to me. It's just exciting. I feel like I've got a legitimate chance to win."
Game bigger than normal: The way the Western Conference is shaping up, it's likely going to go down to the last day of the season to determine the final playoff field.
That makes each of the remaining games huge for all teams in contention for playoff spots – like the Blackhawks, who are in seventh place with 88 points and their opponent Saturday at United Center the Ducks, who are in eighth and just one point behind.
For Chicago, it will be the last time they face a team that's currently in the West's gridlock from the fifth to the 10th spot. They also have three games left against the rival Detroit Red Wings
– two on the road – and tough road games against the Montreal Canadiens
and Boston Bruins
"Hopefully it's not going to be a three-point game tonight and we can try and get a little bit of separation (from the Ducks)," Hawks forward Troy Brouwer
said. "It's going to be a very crucial game to try and get a little separation."
Hiller still No.1
: Jonas Hiller
is not likely to start against the Blackhawks after being pulled against Nashville in a 5-4 loss on Thursday. It was Hiller's first action since missing 16 games because of vertigo and he allowed three goals on nine shots in only 11:37 of ice time.
The Ducks are currently carrying three goalies in Hiller, Ray Emery
and Dan Ellis
. Ducks coach Randy Carlyle
doesn't make his goalie choice public before games, but most in the media think it will be Emery who plays against the Blackhawks.
However, Carlyle said Hiller is still considered the team's top option in his mind.
is a quality goaltender," Carlyle said. "We know how he can play and he'll get another chance."
It just might not happen against the Blackhawks in a game both teams are looking at as a pseudo-playoff matchup.
If Hiller doesn't start on Saturday, he might next get the nod on Monday night at home against the Colorado Avalanche
. Either way, Carlyle will have no reservations putting Hiller back in the net – whenever it happens.
"He's our No.1 goaltender," Carlyle said. "He's part of the reason we're in the position we're in. He's won a lot of hockey games for this team."
Stalberg not looking to be Sharp
: Chicago forward Viktor Stalberg
scored a goal and finished with a plus-2 rating in the Blackhawks' last game, a 4-0 victory Wednesday against the Florida Panthers
at United Center.
He also played on the top line with Jonathan Toews
and Patrick Kane
, but only because his neighbor in the locker room – Patrick Sharp
– is out with a knee injury. Sharp is the team's leading goal scorer and until he was hurt had formed one of the most potent line combinations in the League with Toews and Kane.
Stalberg, who has a tongue-in-cheek "rivalry" with Sharp about who is better looking, said he's not trying to one-up Sharp on the top line.
"I don't think anybody in their wildest dreams would imagine me replacing Sharpie," said Stalberg, who has 12 goals and 22 points in 68 games. "He's been our best player throughout the year and I'm not looking to do that by any means. I know when he gets back, that's where he's going to play. We've just got to find a way to get into the playoffs, and I'm going to do everything I can to help out."
Defending the Ducks
: Anaheim is the only team in the NHL with five guys who have more than 60 points this season. That includes a top line of Ryan Getzlaf
, Bobby Ryan
and Corey Perry
that has combined for 92 goals, 212 points and a plus-24 rating – not to mention 355 hits.
Then there's 40-year-old Teemu Selanne
, whom Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville
considers a "fourth top liner," with 25 goals and 70 points in 65 games.
That's a big task to stop for any team, but especially for Chicago – which will play without pesky checking-line center Dave Bolland
(concussion). The Hawks will likely mix and match their forward lines against the Ducks' top line, but on the blue line the job will likely fall to the familiar top tandem of Duncan Keith
and Brent Seabrook
"They're tricky and you've got to have an awareness," Quenneville said. "(Keith) and (Seabrook) are going to see them a lot, but they play a ton – so you've got a big chore ahead of you."