Brandon Saad, Calder Trophy winner — sounds good to Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.
In a year when there are several rookies capable of winning the Calder, Saad stands out among them, at least in the eyes of his coach.
“Definitely in the race, definitely in the mix,” Quenneville said. “You could say on top, but from watching him here I might be a little biased, but I’m being objective how good he is during games and how big a factor he is in how our team plays.
“He’s progressed from no power play or penalty killing time at the start of the year (to) where all of a sudden he’s getting some quality ice time there, and taking advantage of it.”
Part of the argument against Saad as a Calder winner is he gets to play on a line with two superstars in Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.
“I just know that he just fits there very well, and that’s a compliment to him.” Quenneville said. “He looks like he belongs there.”
Other Calder candidates are Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher, Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau, Ottawa’s Cory Conacher, Edmonton’s Justin Schultz, Minnesota’s Jonas Brodin and the Kings’ Jake Muzzin.
Saad was fifth in rookie scoring on Wednesday with 24 points on 9 goals and 15 assists. Two of his goals have won games.
“I’m not going to say I’m surprised at all because I thought last year when we saw him he did some amazing things right out of the gate,” Quenneville said. “Then (he) went back to juniors and was almost like a man against junior players.”
The Hawks aren’t going to rush Patrick Sharp back into the lineup until he is more than ready.
That means he’s not likely to play Friday against Nashville.
“We’ll get him in a practice (Thursday) and get a better gauge on where he’s at,” Joel Quenneville said. “He looked all right (Wednesday). When he’s ready, and more than ready, we’ll get him in there and get him playing, but we’ll definitely be on the smart side of things.”
It’s looking more and more as if Drew LeBlanc will get to play a game or two down the stretch.
“There’s a chance he could play,” Joel Quenneville said. “I’d like to get him in a game or so. (Thursday) will be a better day for him because he’ll get to practice with the whole group.
“It looks like he skates well and he handles the puck very well. Each and every day he’ll get to see our pace, and it will be a good test for him.”
Looking for confidence:
The Hawks plan to spend a good portion of Thursday’s practice working on the power play, which is 0-for-19 in the last nine games.
“We’re going to keep moving it around until we get it going,” Joel Quenneville said. “We’re going to try things either on the ice, moving some personnel around.
“Hopefully we can get a goal and maybe feel a little bit different when we go about it. We have to get some confidence on it. I think right now it’s a little light in that regard.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.