Hawks to give Saad a look at center
When the Blackhawks opening training camp, Brandon Saad will be spending some time at second-line center after playing last season at left wing.
George LeClaire | Staff Photographer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — When the Blackhawks hit the ice for the first time Thursday at Notre Dame's new Compton Family Ice Center on campus, Brandon Saad will be playing center.
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville acknowledged at the team's convention in July that Saad would get a look at center. Last season as a rookie, Saad was a Calder Trophy finalist at left wing.
"We're going to try him there here this week," Quenneville said Wednesday. "I think one thing about Saad, he's good with the puck, he's a big man (6-feet-1, 202 pounds), he's a big body, he can see and make plays and protects the puck well.
"Defensively is an area that we have a little more responsibility for what our center man does down low in our own end, and I think that's where the growth would have to come. It would be a learning experience for him in that area, but both sides of the puck he's got a pretty good head and mind for the game."
Rookie Brandon Pirri also will be getting a long look at center for the second line.
Finding a fourth-line penalty killer to replace Michael Frolik will be a priority at training camp.
Frolik, who had 3 goals and 7 assists in the playoffs, was traded to Winnipeg in the off-season.
"We've talked about who's going to make our team, (Brandon) Pirri, Jimmy Hayes, (Jeremy) Morin, Ben Smith — these guys are going to be competing," said Joel Quenneville, adding that Frolik found a niche in that role. "We don't want to extend a lot of top-minute guys with extra ice time. If we can get that from one of those guys that doesn't play that much, it would be the perfect fit."
Turn the page:
Last season is over and the partying is done. It's a new season for the defending Stanley Cup champs.
"When you win the Stanley Cup and you come back for the next season, the talk is always going to be about repeating, but we don't want to talk about that yet," Jonathan Toews said. "It's a long ways away. We've got to focus on the start of the season and not making the mistakes we did last time (after 2010).
"We want to put ourselves in the position that can compete for it again. We believe we can be that team."
"You start talking about repeating and competing for a Stanley Cup, that's way down the line," Patrick Sharp said.
In a break with tradition, the Hawks will start midweek games at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30 p.m.
President and CEO John McDonough said the change has received mostly positive reviews from the fans.
"We have a very young fan base," McDonough said. "And I think it would be ideal if we could get them home by 10 o'clock or so. Probably from a media perspective it will be helpful as well. The 7:30 start was something that was just a tradition and we studied it because we wanted to make sure it was the right thing to do for our fans.
"It was overwhelmingly positive to switch to 7:05."
This is a test:
Joel Quenneville said he would monitor Bryan Bickell, Michal Handzus and Marian Hossa closely in Thursday's first practice before determining if they can participate in contact drills.
All three Hawks are coming off significant injuries suffered in the playoffs.
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