Blackhawks

Brandon Saad returns to Chicago with 'a lot of emotions'

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Brandon Saad returns to Chicago with 'a lot of emotions'

Brandon Saad walked down the United Center hallway, stopping several feet short of the home locker room and turning into the visitor’s room.

It was a strange feeling, for sure, but the former Blackhawks forward is happy to be back in the surroundings in which he found so much success.

“Flying in last night, having the day here today, it’s exciting for sure,” said the Columbus Blue Jackets forward. “There are a lot of emotions going but the biggest thing is just enjoying the process. I have a lot of good memories here.”

Saad entered the summer figuring he’d be making a lot more memories with the Blackhawks. But a funny thing happened on the way to a contract extension — he and the Blackhawks never got close on a number. So the Blackhawks traded him to Columbus for Artem Anisimov and Marko Dano. It was definitely a strange time for Saad.

[MORE HAWKS: Vincent Hinostroza set to make NHL debut vs. Blue Jackets]

“It’s my first time going through something like that,” Saad recalled. “After having all that success, thinking one thing and then something else happens, there are definitely a lot of emotions and a pretty hectic 24 hours, 48 hours. At the end of the day it’s part of the business but it’s good to be back.”

Saad’s start with Blue Jackets was painful, as he took a puck to the mouth in late September. He said he feels a lot better now — “I look better too, so that’s good,” he said. But since the regular season began, he’s been performing as the Blue Jackets hoped he would. His three goals, tied for tops on the team, have all come on the power play. The Blue Jackets, however, aren’t doing so well. Columbus fell to 0-5-0 entering Saturday night’s game against the Blackhawks. Saad, who won two Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks, has become somewhat of a leader in his new locker room.

“I think he’s probably still adjusting a little bit; new city, new environment. But he’s been really good for our team,” Columbus coach Todd Richards said. “For me, it’s as simple as his body language at times. He’s attentive, he’s listening and then he goes out on the ice and the way he plays out on the ice, you can tell he’s come from an environment that’s used to winning, and how they do things.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

As far as Saad becoming more of a leader for the Blue Jackets, Richards said, “he’s still getting his feet wet there, and that’s not an easy situation for him to come in and immediately get to the forefront of leadership. But I think he’s offered experiences that he’s already gone through as a young player that he can pass on to his teammates and a lot of it is what it takes to win on a consistent basis.”

Saad has gone through a lot of changes over the last few months, from being another potential member of the Blackhawks’ core to playing for a new team. Saad has the championship pedigree and a sizeable contract, and he could become a bigger leader for a team trying to find its way in this early going. It’s a lot of responsibility for him, but Saad is ready for it all.

“It’s a little of everything. Something I want to do is produce for the team but I also want to be a good leader,” Saad said. “It’s something that, coming in as a new guy and being young as well, it’s a new role for me. But it’s been great so far. I’m just looking to keep getting better.”

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: