Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane

Blackhawks enjoy much better start than last year

A red-hot end (and a timely Dallas Stars loss) helped the Chicago Blackhawks make the playoff last season, but they’re hoping to make things a little easier for themselves in 2011-12. As’s Tracey Myers points out, the early grade is “so far, so good” – they began Saturday’s action atop the Western Conference with 19 points.

Myers points out that their 8-2-3 record yielded four more points than they did at the same point during the 2010-11 season, even though they played in two extra contests (Chicago was 7-7-1 for 15 points). Sure, they’re scraping together some charity points with six of 13 contests going to overtime or a shootout, but at this point it’s all about building up a solid winter coat for tougher times.

The tantalizing part for the Blackhawks is that there’s room for improvement, too. While they’re fifth-best penalty kill will come down to earth from its 89.5 percent success rate, their power play should almost certainly improve from its 10.4 percent mark.

They’re hammering shots on goal and playing sufficient defense through the first month-and-change, which is a great sign for the league’s second most recent champions. The Blackhawks might even build up a divisional lead that proves too much to handle for the struggling Detroit Red Wings, which is reason enough to stay focused early on.

Either way, a more robust Blackhawks team has to be much happier about the way things are looking through this first span.

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    Here are the 10 oldest players to play a game this season

    Jaromir Jagr
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    This isn’t breaking news or anything. We just thought you’d like to know that three of the NHL’s 10 oldest players (who’ve played at least one game this season) are members of the Florida Panthers.

    Oh, and the Panthers’ starting goalie? He’s the oldest starter in the league. (Scroll down.)

    Here’s the list of skaters, topped by 43-year-old Jaromir Jagr:


    Yet another veteran Panther, 36-year-old defenseman Brian Campbell, ranks 17th on the list.

    Granted, the above list does not include 39-year-old Patrik Elias (who’s hurt) or 39-year-old Eric Boulton (who just re-signed with the Isles). As soon as those two play, Thornton will get pushed out of the top 10.

    Now here’s the list of goalies who’ve started at least one game this season, topped by 36-year-old Roberto Luongo:


    For the record, Luongo isn’t the oldest goalie under contract. That would be Minnesota’s Niklas Backstrom, who’s 37.

    Related: Can Florida’s old guys hang on while the young guys get better?

    Hamburglar (groin) returns, Sens demote O’Connor

    Andrew Hammond
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    Matt O'Connor‘s time in the Canadian capital was brief, but still noteworthy.

    O’Connor, the losing netminder in Sunday’s “Battle of the Backups” against Montreal — Habs No. 2 Mike Condon got the win — has been sent down to AHL Binghamton to pave the way for Andrew Hammond‘s return from a groin injury, per the Sun.

    The Hamburglar has been out since the preseason, but his return is earlier than expected.

    He was originally supposed to miss the first two weeks, yet now sounds as though he’ll play one of Ottawa’s two games on an upcoming road trip through Columbus and Pittsburgh.

    It’s going to be interesting to see if Hammond can replicate the success he had last season, when he came out of nowhere to go 20-1-2 with a 1.79 GAA and .941 save percentage, and finish seventh in Vezina voting.