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A futuristic finish to Hawks' season
It may have been the last game of the season, but the crowd of 21,565mostly Detroit fansSunday at the United Center got a brief glimpse of what to expect next season.
Tyler Arnason played just 11 minutes, continuing to the very end a puzzling lack of ice time for perhaps the Blackhawks' most offensively creative center, yet still found a way to score.
Igor Radulov continued to impress and make one wonder whywhen the team went through a stretch in which it couldn't score into a soccer goalhe wasn't given a taste of the NHL earlier.
Considering Arnason scored the winner in overtime and Radulov his fifth goal in seven NHL games, the expected youth movement for the Hawks next season might not be so painful.
The Hawks closed a disappointing 2002-03 season with a 4-3 victory over the Red Wings when Arnason scored his 19th goal of the season at 2 minutes 10 seconds of overtime.
With 79 points, the Hawks finished with 17 fewer than last season. After dropping seven games all last season at the United Center, they closed out the home season with an 18-15-7-2 mark.
Goaltender Michael Leighton, another rookie whom the Hawks hope will be part of their core for the future, earned his second NHL victory with a 32-save performance.
Leighton and Craig Andersson are expected to compete for the backup job to Jocelyn Thibault next season, and Leighton certainly didn't do anything to hurt his chances in the limited action he saw this season.
"I certainly hope so," Leighton said. "I wanted to show that I can play at this level."
Leighton played eight games, compiling a 2-3-2 record, 2.81 goals-against average and .912 save percentage. He faced stiff competition as well, playing twice against Detroit and three times against St. Louis.
"They're two of the best teams in the league," he said. "It's definitely a confidence booster."
Arnason played just 2:44 in the third period and overtime but continued to score despite the lack of ice time since November. He closed his rookie year with the third-most goals on the club.
"I thought overall it was pretty good, mostly positive," Arnason said of his first full season. "If you would have told me I would have played the whole year and get five or six goals, I would've been happy."
More should be expected of Arnason next season, who should see the 18 to 20 minutes of ice time he was getting before Michael Nylander was traded Nov. 1.
"If you play sports, you want to play as much as you can," he said. "If I get a bigger role [next season], I'll definitely be happy."
Hawks fans may be as well.