Hartsburg helped Toews master shootout

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

CHICAGO -- Craig Hartsburg admits to just one trick he taught the captain of the Blackhawks.

"Shootouts," Hartsburg joked, hours before his team squared off against Jonathan Toews and the 'Hawks at the United Center. "I can't teach (the Senators) but ... "

Hartsburg was coaching Team Canada at the 2007 world junior championship in Leksand, Sweden when a 17-year-old Toews magically scored not one, not two but three times in a seven-round shootout to lead the red and white into the gold-medal game with a 2-1 victory over the U.S. Earning a huge assist in the victory was Carey Price, who made a game-clinching save off Peter Mueller.

"I have never been through anything like that," Hartsburg, now the Senators bench boss, said at the time. "Ever."

Hartsburg still speaks in grandiose terms when the subject is Toews, who had four goals in the three games before last night's meeting with Ottawa.

"When we had him (with Hockey Canada) he was great. He was just an unbelievable kid," Hartsburg said. "His character ... you can say all you want about his skill level, but I think it starts with his character. He's just a complete player, really.

"Two or three years from now, he'll be even more dominant than he is now. Probably as good a two-way player as there will be in the game. He's still learning things. He doesn't cut corners in any part of the game. He'll be as good offensively as he will defensively."

Toews, of course, is a large part of the resurgence of hockey in Chi-town. Fast, talented, and exciting, the Hawks roster includes 11 players 24 and under.

"I wasn't that mature when I was 20," said 29-year-old defenceman Brian Campbell, speaking of Toews' work ethic and general demeanour. "I still might not be that mature."

Toews was asked how close the 'Hawks feel they are.

"It's incredible. I haven't been on any other team, I don't really know what it's like in this league, but as far as I know guys that have been on other teams always say that, we're a young team, not a lot of guys in here have families, our commitment is to this locker room," he said. "Obviously, we spend a lot of time together away from the rink. I think that makes us closer."

Interesting answer. But I meant how close to winning Chicago's first Cup since 1961.

"I think our focus is taking it week by week," said Toews. "There's a lot of pressure in this city. Lot of fans are eager to see us get back to the playoffs. That's our No. 1 goal. Right now, we can set our goals high enough to be up there in the top four with teams like Detroit, Anaheim, Vancouver and San Jose. Teams like that. Obviously, the West is pretty competitive. You never know what can happen. But I think once we get there, we've got to believe there's no reason we can't make it past the first round. After that, who knows how far you can go? I think the sky is the limit for us right now."

Starts and stops

Brendan Bell's last game at the United Center against the Blackhawks was also his last game as a Coyote. "We lost 6-1," said Bell. "Dustin Byfuglien had a hat trick in the first period. It was crazy. We couldn't do anything right." The next time he stepped on the United Center ice was also a painful experience for Bell. But that's because a shot along the boards by Senators assistant coach Curtis Hunt caught him on an unprotected area of his foot at yesterday's morning skate. It stung him, but didn't do enough damage to keep him from the game ... Chicago D Duncan Keith was given a delay of game penalty in the first period last night when his wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle in the Chicago end sailed over Senators G Martin Gerber and the glass behind the Ottawa net. Personally, I thought he should have been given a medal instead. That's a mighty impressive wrister ... Asked by a Chicago TV reporter which Senator is the "clubhouse leader" in the team's moustache-growing contest, Daniel Alfredsson said: "It's probably between Gerber and (Chris) Phillips," said Alfredsson. "I know it's not me anyway." Is there a longshot that you like sneaking through the pack for a late charge? "Yeah," said Alfredsson. "(Nick) Foligno. In 12 or 13 years he's going to have a good chance." ... Jarkko Ruutu, for the record, has no upper-lip hair whatsoever. "I was going to the Finnish embassy a couple of weeks ago, and I thought, I'm not going there with a moustache," said Ruutu. Is he going to get back into the game now? "I might as well."

Between periods

Blackhawks rookie F Kris Versteeg was absent last night serving a one-game suspension he received for getting an instigator penalty in the final seconds of Sunday's game against Phoenix. After the game, Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky ripped Versteeg for grabbing Kyle Turris "out of a pile in a 7-1 game and (giving him) a beating." Versteeg's reply? "My dad (Roy) has this big wall full of Wayne Gretzky stuff," he said. "If I ever wanted to say something bad about Wayne Gretzky, he'd be the first guy here to give me a slap upside the head."

It makes you go hmm ...

Excitement is building for the New Year's Day game at Wrigley Field between the Blackhawks and Red Wings. "I think it would be a great experience," Alfredsson, whose backyard rink is up and running already, said of playing outside. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, unless you're Brian Campbell." Campbell played in last year's outdoor game between Buffalo and Pittsburgh ... Hartsburg remembered a playoff game in his first year as the Chicago coach that went three overtime periods. Chicago D Chris Chelios, who was the team's leading scorer that season, missed four hours with "equipment problems". Asked yesterday what those problems were, Hartsburg said, "it was a needle stuck in his groin. It froze his whole leg." The numbing didn't subside until after midnight. Chelios tried skating every intermission, but still couldn't shake it. "We got the 'it could be 15 minutes, it could be 40 minutes, but he'll come back,' " remembered Hartsburg. "We went four hours without him. He sat in the hot tub, the sauna, he tried everything. One more period I think and we would have got him back."


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