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STEVE MACFARLANE, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 10:11 AM ET

CHICAGO -- Tony Amonte did a little scouting in Chicago last week.

But it wasn't the Blackhawks he scoped from the sidelines, it was the Super Bowlbound Bears the Calgary Flames forward had his eyes on hours after a big victory of his own in Edmonton.

Taking advantage of the all-star break, Amonte hopped aboard a jet, landed around 5:30 a.m. and slept till noon before making the trek to Soldier Field to see the Bears beat the New Orleans Saints.

And while the longtime 'Hawk -- who led the team in goal scoring for five straight seasons during his eight-year tenure -- enjoyed the atmosphere, he admits he never became a Bears fan while making his living here.

It was family that brought him back to Chicago a week before the Flames' battle with the Blackhawks today (1 p.m., Sportsnet).

"My little sister just had a baby, she's two months old. We hadn't seen her yet," said Amonte. "It was more of a family trip but the Bears happened to be playing. It was nice to catch the game on Sunday. The city was abuzz. It was a nice place to be last Sunday, that's for sure."

As Flames fans who saw their team make it to the 2004 Stanley Cup finals can attest, a city truly comes to life when a sports franchise has post-season success.

Amonte felt some of that excitement when his 'Hawks made it to the Western Confernce final in 1995 and experienced it again a week ago.

"It was crazy," said Amonte, who also bumped into old friend Chris Chelios. "The city loves winners. I was here when the Bulls were winning, we had some good teams when I first arrived here, we had some really good runs. They love a winner and I could see it the other day at Soldier Field. It's a fun place to play when things are going like that."

Things have not been so rosy for the Blackhawks, who are on a 10-game slide.

Amonte sees better times ahead, though. There are some young players with bright futures aboard in forwards Martin Havlat, Rene Bourque and Tuomo Ruutu, as well as up-and-coming defencemen Cam Barker and Brent Seabrook. And Denis Savard -- a former teammate of Amonte's who shares his Blackhawks benchmark of four goals in a single playoff game -- is now behind the bench.

"They're on their way," said Amonte. "Every team goes through rebuilding and whatnot and it seems like they've turned the corner going the other way.

"They've got some good players in there, had a lot of coaching changes. I wish Denis Savard the best. I played with him and wish him well. Hopefully he does great, just not tomorrow when they're playing us."

While in town with the Flames, Amonte is part tour guide and part concierge. Much has changed since he left Chicago as a player but the veteran still has his finger on the pulse of the city.

"I've made a few reservations for different guys at different restaurants, things like that. I still know a few people," said Amonte. "Probably the best part of the city is the people. The people are so friendly, nice, kind. They love their athletes and we usually get taken care of very well."

Flames assistant coach Rich Preston, who retired in Chicago as a player before moving behind the bench along with Darryl Sutter, is also able to play the role of guide here.

He just chooses not to.

"I let the coaches go their own wayward way," joked Preston before driving the Flames coaching staff from the practice rink to the hotel.

"They're big boys."

CHUCKY GRAND:

Chuck Kobasew made his return to game action Friday after missing eight contests with a concussion.

He showed no signs of holding back, either. Kobasew threw his body around with reckless abandon starting right on the opening shift and seemed as if he was good as new.

He left yesterday's practice at Johnny's Ice House early for a meeting with team physician Morris Boyer but said he was feeling fine.

Defenceman Robyn Regher is still battling the flu and isn't expected to suit up for this afternoon's game.


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