When rookie left wing Brandon Saad arrived from Rockford the other day, he said this Blackhawks roster was going to be a tough one to crack.
Consider it cracked.
Saad left with the team for Los Angeles on Thursday as part of the 23-man roster.
"It's a huge step for me," the 19-year-old Saad said. "It's nice to be part of the team, but it's a process and I have to keep playing well. You always want to play in the best league possible. It's real exciting. I'm just hoping to get some (playing) time."
That's up to coach Joel Quenneville, who has several options with the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Saad. He can play with the Hawks' best players or he can fill a role on the third or fourth line.
"We saw last year in training camp he has some special skills," Quenneville said. "He does a lot of things guys can't do as far as protecting the puck. He sees plays, makes plays; the last week or so at Rockford he did some things that really get your attention."
Quenneville doesn't see a problem with Saad getting his feet wet on the fourth line.
"I've seen some top players over time over their careers start on the fourth line," Quenneville said. "If you look at the history of the Canadiens, it's a you've got to work your way up the ladder type of thing. With him, he's capable of playing in that role and could be inserted with Johnny (Toews) up there based on how he plays."
Saad had 34 goals and 76 points in 44 games last year with Saginaw after making the Hawks out of training camp and playing the first two games. He was also plus-35.
Brandon Bollig also made the team and left for Los Angeles. Jimmy Hayes, Ryan Stanton and Brandon Pirri were returned to Rockford.
Thank you fans:
The Hawks announced the launch of the Blackhawks Fan Salute program to thank fans for hanging in there during the NHL lockout.
Through the program, the Hawks will give away 1,000 autographed jerseys over the course of the 99-day NHL season. The Hawks will also show their appreciation by awarding 250 autographed pucks and 100 autographed sticks signed by a current player or Hawks ambassador, 200-level tickets and once-in-a-lifetime experiences, such as a postgame player meet-and-greet, pregame dinner with an ambassador in the Stadium Club, glass seats and more.
In addition, all season ticketholders and partial-plan holders are automatically entered to win and will also be issued gift certificates valid for merchandise at all team retail locations and United Center concession stands.
"The Blackhawks are proud to offer a gesture of appreciation to our loyal and passionate fan base through this unique program," said executive vice president Jay Blunk. "The entire organization has mobilized to offer Blackhawks fans a chance at connecting with our players through once-in-a-lifetime experiences at the United Center."
Fans can fill out an entry form at chicagoblackhawks.com. Thirty winners per game (home and away) will be announced on the website every game day throughout the season at noon.
As Crow flies:
Goalie Corey Crawford got better as Wednesday's scrimmage progressed will start Saturday's opener.
"Just watching him in last night's game he started just OK, but as it picked up you could just feel him getting settled," Joel Quenneville said. "You could see him settling down and taking charge.
"With the importance right out of the gate and the meaning of these games, it's going to be interesting to see how the goalies handle it."
Welcome to town:
Joel Quenneville had a few words of advice for new Bears coach Marc Trestman.
"It's a special place to work with very passionate fans," Quenneville said. "Being at a couple Bears games this year you know how fun it is to be a part of that. I'm sure he's going to love it here."Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.