Saad gives center a shot for first time
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. ó The Brandon Saad at center experiment began on Thursday with one hitch: Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville didn't know Saad had never played center before.
"I've played both sides of the wing, but never center," Saad said.
That was news to Quenneville, who had Saad between Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa on the first day of training camp at Notre Dame.
"He's never played center?" Quenneville said after being told what the second-year forward had said. "Oh, I thought he played in juniors at some point.
"He goes all over the ice anyway, and he seems like he's played center. No matter where he's at, he has the puck a lot. I think you have the puck more in the middle. When he has it, he does some good things."
Saad said he felt comfortable in the middle with Sharp and Hossa.
"I got my first taste of it today," Saad said. "It's going to be a learning experience, but I'm going to be playing with some pretty good players, so that's definitely going to help out.
"I'm pretty excited, actually. Center's usually one of the best players on the ice and get to come up the middle and play well defensively. So it's going to be new for me. But I usually pride myself on playing well defensively. Hopefully that will work out."
Agent Pat Brisson must have got to Patrick Kane to tell him to cool it on this Blackhawk for life stuff that general manager Stan Bowman started last week.
Kane said Thursday that while he'd like to finish his career with the Hawks, he couldn't promise anything.
"That's what you hope for," Kane said. "That's obviously the ultimate goal, to win championships and play for an organization like this. I'm still a young kid; I'm 24, turning 25 this year, and to say what's going to happen the rest of my career, I just don't know. Obviously, it would be ideal to stay here, but we'll cross that path when we come to it."
Kane and Jonathan Toews will be unrestricted free agents after next season.
"We haven't talked about it," Kane said. "We talked about what was said and different things like that. Yeah, it would be great, but other than that I think we're just focused on getting our chemistry back and getting up to speed of where we were in the playoffs.
"That's our focus right now, not worrying about what's going to happen two years down the road, if we're going to stay together or not, or if we're going to play our career with one team."
Playing it safe:
Joel Quenneville said center Michal Handzus and defenseman Michal Rozsival would practice Friday but not scrimmage for the next few days as they recover from injuries suffered in the playoffs.
"They'll be out skating every day, but it might be a couple days before we get them into contact," Quenneville said.
Bryan Bickell and Marian Hossa were hurt in the postseason and are good to go.
"My back is much stronger, much better, and that's the key," Hossa said. "I wouldn't be skating or have contact if I had doubt."
Hossa avoided back surgery this summer to repair a disc, but did take several shots to help with the healing process.
Joel Quennevillesaid if the season started tomorrow he would have a first line of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell.
Quenneville didn't want to put a number on how many games he wants new backup goalie Nikolai Khabibulin to start. ... Kane reported to camp in the best shape of his career, according to Quenneville.
"It seems like Kaner, every year he looks a little stronger, a little bit bigger and quicker. You've got to commend on his growth, both as a person and a player. I see another level of focus," Quenneville said.
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