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LaBarbera Gives Hogs Hope

The additon of veteran goalie Jason LaBarbera could be just what the IceHogs need.
ROCKFORD-The IceHogs have had five different goaltenders in the net already this season.  And we’re not quite at the halfway point.  But that revolving door should change now that veteran Jason Labarbera is on board.

Labarbera made his first start for the Hogs last Saturday and he turned away 31 shots to help the Hogs beat defending Calder Cup Champion Grand Rapids.  That snapped the Hogs seven game winless skid.   We’ll be seeing a whole more of him between the pipes.

"Right now Chicago wants him to get the majority of the games, because he’d be the first call-up goalie from Rockford to go to Chicago," says IceHogs coach Ted Dent.

LaBarbera is 33 years old. In 2003 and 2004 he was the AHL’s most valuable player with Hartford. He had NHL prospect written all over him.  He’s had NHL stops with the Rangers, Kings, Canucks Coyotes and Oilers appearing in 182 games in all.  But he was always stuck behind another goaltender or two with those organizations.  Last month the Blackhawks picked him up from Edmonton in a trade for future considerations. He welcomed the change and an opportunity to join the Blackhawks organization.

"I was excited for sure," says LaBarbera. "Obviously they’re a pretty good organization. They’ve done well over the last few years."

So what motivates LaBarbera at this stage of his career?

"I think just enjoying the game. It’s been a grind the last few years. Like I said I haven’t played a whole lot. I’ve been in the NHL, but I haven’t played a lot of games, so just to get back to this level and really enjoying playing hockey and being around the guys."

LaBarbera sees part of his role here as that of a being a steady influence on the younger guys.

"Just being round the young guys and help them out and talk to them and relate to them some experiences and stories. Just try to be a calming influence for the guys."

"I think Labarbera as long as he’s here will definitely help our group and instill some confidence with his experience and his background," says Dent.

"He’s playing with a lot of confidence and it reflects back on us," says IceHogs forward Joakim Nordstrom. "It’s nice to have in on our team. He’s been in the league and the NHL for a long time, so he’s very experienced."

LaBarbera realizes the Blackhawks are set for now with goalies Corey Crawford and Antti Raanta, but one injury to either one of those guys, and he’ll likely be up in Chicago.
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