There has been no doubt that the arrival of Martin Havlat, acquired in a three-team trade with the Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks last July, brought a legitimate offensive star to the Blackhawks.
"He's obviously a great player and was a great acquisition for us," Hawks coach Denis Savard said. "We're playing about .500 with him, and he came here as a leader and our top guy."
Havlat has exceeded his expectations since signing a three-year contract, leading a young team in scoring with 52 points in 45 games, along with a plus-17 rating in a season that has been shortened because of ankle and groin injuries.
To obtain Havlat, 25, the Blackhawks knew they would have to part with a promising young player of their own: Mark Bell, 26, who was sent to San Jose.
The transition has not been as smooth for Bell, but that wasn't evident Tuesday night at the HP Pavilion. His line, with Patrick Marleau and Bill Guerin, helped the Sharks cruise to a 7-1 victory over the Hawks.
Martin Lapointe scored the Hawks' lone goal.
Minutes after Guerin's first goal as a Shark since being acquired at the trade deadline, Bell collected a pass that trickled toward the crease and snapped a wrist shot over Patrick Lalime's left shoulder that put the Sharks ahead 2-0 midway through the first period.
The Hawks had a chance to cut the deficit, but a Havlat breakaway chance came up empty when his backhand hit the post.
After Milan Michalek made it 3-0 in the second period, the Sharks opened the floodgates in the third with goals from Joe Thornton and Mike Grier and two more from Guerin, the last one on a penalty shot.
The Hawks selected Bell with the eighth overall pick of the 1998 draft, and he spent his first four full professional seasons with the team. Bell registered career highs with 25 goals and 48 points in 2005-06.
The trade caught Bell off guard, but he soon welcomed the new opportunity.
"It was such a shock," he said. "I thought I would be there a little or [possibly] a lot longer, but you never know in this business.
"After it sunk in, I was pretty happy. We have a great team here."
Bell ran into trouble over Labor Day weekend, when he was arrested on suspicion of a DUI and felony hit-and-run accident. He has pleaded not guilty.
"We know Mark very well, and he's a great kid. He made a mistake and he'll learn," Savard said of Bell, who was named the Hawks' "Man of the Year" a season ago for charity work and community service. "He's a caring person, and it's going to make him better for it."
The season also has been one of frustration on the ice for Bell. He has dealt with wrist and groin troubles since the second game and managed only 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in 58 games before Tuesday.
"I'm a better all-around player than I was a year ago," Bell said. "I've picked up my physical game, and sticking up for my teammates is something I've always done and take pride in."
Although his individual numbers are down, Bell has contributed on a contender that sits in a three-way tie for fifth place in the Western Conference.
"We've been gelling these last few games," he said. "We have a special team and want to make this year special."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times