Jonathan Toews approached Saturday night’s game, the one in which he’d be centering Brandon Saad and Richard Panik against the Columbus Blue Jackets, with playful trepidation.
“Well, it was nice to see what they can do without me,” said Toews, referring to Thursday’s game that he missed due to illness. “Maybe I’ll take a few more nights off and let Saader and Panner do their thing.”
Saad and Panik both had nice evenings, especially Saad who recorded a preseason hat trick. Still, this is the Blackhawks’ top line moving forward so it gives them a chance to see how things have been developing in camp to this point.
“It’s been fun playing with those two so far,” Toews said. “We’re starting to work on that confidence, starting to get better and better as we get closer toward the season. For myself, hopefully I can just step in and help them build off their night and continue the offense.”
Jean-François Bérubé is expected to play Saturday night’s entire game.
The Blackhawks reacquired Saad in June in the hopes that he would bring the same game that made him a top-line forward here several years ago. On Thursday he showed he hasn’t lost a whole lot. Now the Blackhawks will start to see if that top line can mesh and meet expectations.
“He’s stepping in here knowing he’ll be one of those guys heavily keyed upon for us, and he’s ready for that and excited for it,” Toews said of Saad. “It’s nice to see him really taking shape, getting confidence early with the hat trick. Hopefully I don’t hold him back to much tonight and we can keep it going.”