Havlat sparkles out of spotlight

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

CHICAGO -- Everybody wants to play with the new toy.

It's shinier, jazzier, has more bells and whistles.

Sometimes, the old, faithful gadgets are just as entertaining, though.

In Chicago, the new toys are the dynamic duo of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. They're the young stars pegged to headline the Blackhawks for years to come.

But look who scored late in regulation and then in overtime Thursday night to give the Hawks a 3-2 win over the Flames in their NHL playoff series opener.

Martin Havlat, the toy that's been in the box a few years.

"It's true, Kane and Toews get the bulk of the headlines, bulk of the attention, and rightfully so, they're great players. So Havlat's the forgotten guy," said right-winger Patrick Sharp. "But he's been our offensive leader all year long. He's been on a checking line that matches up against guys like Jarome Iginla, Henrik Zetterberg, top lines of other teams and he's plus-20 something.

"There's no doubting his importance to our team."

Not after the way he came through in the clutch to give them the first win in the best-of-seven affair that continues tonight.

With less than six minutes remaining in regulation, Havlat came out of the pile along the boards and scored on his own rebound to force overtime.

He ended the extra period in only 12 seconds.

Forgotten no longer. At least by the Flames.

"You don't see him in too many commercials or promotional things, or even get interviewed too often, unless he has a big game. He just flies under the radar," Sharp said.

"I can't speak for other teams around the league, but I'm sure when they come to Chicago, when they talk about our team, they probably look to Toews and look to Kane, and probably forget about him.

"I think that plays into our hands."

It's a curious turn of events in Chicago considering less than three years ago Havlat became the face of the franchise.

Dealt from the Ottawa Senators because of a looming contract issue, he landed in Chicago and signed a three-year pact worth US$6 million per season.

But then came the injuries.

He played only 56 games in 2006-07 and last year was held to only 35 contests due to shoulder problems.

By then, the Hawks belonged to Toews and Kane, as well as their young and talented defence corps.

Havlat responded with a team-best 77 points this season and nowhere near the scrutiny.

"I think he's been the focal point a number of years, so he's happy to fly under the radar," Sharp said. "But he plays an important role. There's a lot of talk about his highlight-reel goals, but he's really good defensively."

Havlat said he doesn't mind being put somewhat in the shadows.

"They're great players and deserve a lot of attention," said the right-winger, who'll celebrate his 28th birthday tomorrow. "I'm fine with that.

"It's a different year off the ice and on the ice than the last two years. We have a better team, better players and we made the playoffs.

"That's a biggest difference."

He wasn't in the spotlight yesterday just for his goals Thursday.

Before lighting the lamp, Havlat took a forearm to the chops courtesy Flames left-winger Michael Cammalleri.

There was a question whether Cammalleri would receive a suspension, although it didn't happen, and Havlat was happy to let the issue die.

"It's all about winning," he said. "If that will be the cost of winning the game, I'll take it anytime."


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