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Bowman looks to bolster Hawks’ blue line

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



Let’s be clear: The Blackhawks are buyers. The trade deadline Monday is quickly approaching, and general manager Stan Bowman is looking to add to his team — not break it up.

With Michael Frolik on board, Bowman said he’s content with his forwards. So his focus has been — and will be until one arrives — on getting a physical defenseman who can kill penalties.

The Hawks’ defense was considered their biggest strength last season. It’s what makes their puck-possession game work.

But now the Hawks’ defensemen appear to be guilty of trying to do too much, and they’re committing a high amount of turnovers and having a lot of their shots blocked as a result. The mistakes they’re making and the energy they’re expending are affecting the penalty kill, as well.

It has been like that for most of the season, and it’s clear some help is needed. The Hawks need a player to take the load off Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brian Campbell on the PK and against top threats at even strength. If he can be a consistent physical presence, that’s an added bonus.

Why hasn’t it happened yet?

There has been ample speculation, but few available players have fit the bill.

It was thought that the Boston Bruins’ Mark Stuart was on the verge of becoming a Hawk until he was shipped to the Atlanta ­Thrashers.

Other defensemen have been moved recently, but nothing has come together for the Hawks. But Bowman, who always seems to be on the phone, is trying.

“I think some teams are going to try to hold their guys close to the deadline,” Bowman said. “We don’t necessarily want to wait that long. If we find a guy we’re comfortable with, we’ll make it work.”

One problem is that many teams are still in the playoff race. Another is that the Hawks have little cap room to acquire a veteran with a sizable cap hit, even it’s prorated.

If they do, that might mean rookie Nick Leddy — who admirably fills in on the PK when Keith, Seabrook, Campbell or Hjalmarsson is in the penalty box — is headed back to Rockford. There are concerns about how Leddy will handle postseason play, but he has surpassed veterans Nick Boynton and Jordan Hendry in the pecking order.

Bowman isn’t going to make a blockbuster trade similar to the ones recently made, either. If he does, it will signal that he’s giving up on the core his team is built around. He’s not going to do that.

“We’re looking to keep our group together and complement it and not change things up,” Bowman said.

That means players with expiring contracts such as Troy Brouwer and Tomas Kopecky aren’t going anywhere. But it doesn’t leave the Hawks with much to offer besides picks and prospects.

Is Bowman confident that his group is good enough to make the playoffs and be competitive?

“Yeah,” he said. “We’re always looking to get better, but we believe in these guys.”



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