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SARAH KWAK
October 04, 2010
WESTERN CONFERENCE
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October 04, 2010

Central

WESTERN CONFERENCE

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LAST SEASON

52-22-8 (2nd in West); won Stanley Cup

KEY ADDITIONS

RW Fernando Pisani, LW Viktor Stalberg, G Marty Turco

KEY LOSSES

D-RW Dustin Byfuglien, G Antti Niemi, LW Kris Versteeg

A MERE 14 DAYS after lifting the Stanley Cup, general manager Stan Bowman began the careful (and necessary) process of dismantling a championship team. Doomed by a tight salary cap, Chicago had dealt, or allowed to walk away, nine of the players who had helped lift the club to the top of the NHL, including big-bodied scorer Dustin Byfuglien and goaltender Antti Niemi. But one asset Bowman refused to part with was 28-year-old center Patrick Sharp, despite his $3.9 million cap hit.

"He was so instrumental in our playoff run," Chicago winger Patrick Kane says. "He pretty much plays in every situation—power play, penalty kill—and when you see how consistent he was, it's probably better to keep that around."

Sharp (below), who scored a career-high 66 points last season and along with Byfuglien led the Blackhawks with 11 playoff goals, also brings veteran leadership to a team that will skate with an all-rookie fourth line to start the season.

As much turnover as there was in Chicago during the off-season, it may not be the new faces in the room that prove to be the biggest adjustment for the young Blackhawks. Coming down from the high of the most exciting summer of their lives might be harder.

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