Blackhawks

Brandon Saad doesn't view bump to fourth line as demotion even though Blackhawks are looking for more

Brandon Saad doesn't view bump to fourth line as demotion even though Blackhawks are looking for more

The Blackhawks loaded up the first two lines to open the season in an effort to jumpstart the offense, and they've certainly gotten that with 18 goals through four games.

Ten of those goals have come from the top line of Alex DeBrincat, Dominik Kahun and Jonathan Toews. Four of them have come from Patrick Kane, with Nick Schmaltz recording just as many assists.

Brandon Saad, on the other hand, has one point through four games playing on the second line. He had two prime scoring chances in the third period of Thursday's 4-3 overtime loss to the Minnesota Wild, which included a breakaway. But much like a year ago, he's not getting the results.

Saad was demoted to the fourth line during Friday's practice playing alongside David Kampf and Marcus Kruger, while rookie Alexandre Fortin jumped into that left wing spot next to Kane and Schmaltz after an impressive debut.

Asked what he's looking for from Saad, coach Joel Quenneville didn't hesitate.

"More," he said. "With [Fortin] going to that line, he brings that speed. I thought he had some good things we saw last night that he can bring to the team. Saad needs a little bit more consistency with the puck. Losing pucks, we want to make sure, if you are going to lose it, there’s still another level of keeping the puck and not ending it there in that situation. That’s one area he can be better.

"But I still think there’s production there. He's had some looks. We’re looking for more of the finished product, as we saw those situations come up last year, as well. Krugs’ line always seems to generate something. That line can have more of a purpose defensively and can be an effective line because they usually get some top lines and sometimes they can be exposed in some situations."

But Saad doesn't necessarily see it as a demotion.

"I think it's just having balance throughout the team," he said. "We have a lot of good players. Just because I'm in that role, we want to play well defensively, but also I think we can contribute with a lot of offensive plays too. We're all skilled players and all got a knack for the net, so I don't see us shy of scoring any goals."

Still, zero goals through four games can't sit well a player of his caliber especially when you consider he scored six goals through the first six games last season and still finished with only 18 across 82 games.

"You always want to produce and help the team win," Saad said. "The biggest thing for me is playing both ends of the ice, but obviously you want to produce as well. I've always had pretty good success at that. Not the top of the league, but still enough to contribute to win hockey games. That's the type of player I want to be and obviously it's been a little bit of a slow start, but I think I've had some positive things and you've just got to keep improving."

The challenge with this entire situation is that there's no doubt Saad is more effective when playing in a top-six role with offensively skilled players. But the Blackhawks have no choice but to send a message when the production simply hasn't been there. It would also send the wrong message to the team by continuing to reward a player with more ice time when somebody else may be more deserving of it for the time being.

For better or worse, Saad hasn't changed his mindset one way or the other and won't going forward, no matter what his role may be.

"Regardless of where you're at, you can't change your attitude or mindset," Saad said. "You've got to come to work every day and have that success.

"When we're winning, it's pretty easy to stay positive. But obviously with losing like last night, it's definitely tough and something you think about a little bit more. At the end of the day, it's just coming to work every day, improving every day and just keep doing what you're doing."

Four takeaways: Blackhawks can't solve rookie Cal Petersen in shootout loss

Four takeaways: Blackhawks can't solve rookie Cal Petersen in shootout loss

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings at the United Center on Friday:

1. Blackhawks can't solve Cal Petersen

With Jonathan Quick (knee), Jack Campbell (knee) and Peter Budaj (sick) out, the Kings trotted out former Notre Dame standout Petersen to make his first career NHL start between the pipes. And he didn't disappoint.

The 24-year-old stopped 34 of 35 shots (.971 save percentage) in 65 minutes of play and denied Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in the shootout to earn his first victory in the big leagues.

"He was good, yeah," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "The third period was more like it. If we’d had 60 minutes [like that] maybe we break him down eventually. He did well, he did a good job. I thought we had a little more traffic, got some more pucks to the net. That was better. But you can’t help but think if we’d have had that push earlier, then we’d get paid off for it."

2. Line changes serve as third-period spark

After failing to generate many scoring chances in the first two periods, Jeremy Colliton spruced up his top-six by putting Brandon Saad with Kane and Toews and Nick Schmaltz with Alex DeBrincat and Artem Anisimov. They saw the benefits almost immediately.

Saad scored 2:39 into the final frame after burying a feed at the doorstep by Toews for his third goal in six games, tying the game at 1-1.

'We showed some resiliency battling in the third," Saad said. "It was definitely a slow start. We've got to play a full 60 minutes to win hockey games, but I think it shows some character how we can battle back in the third. And then overtime we had some chances and some puck possession, and when it comes down to a shootout it can be anyone's game. But the message for us is to play a full 60, because when we play well you can see that we have opportunities and a better chance to win the hockey game."

3. Power play comes up empty

Special teams was the deciding factor in the Blackhawks' last two games. They gave up two power-play goals in 66 seconds against Carolina on Monday and then beat St. Louis 1-0 on Wednesday thanks to a power-play goal of their own.

The Blackhawks had three power-play opportunities against the Kings, and all three of them came in the second period. They recorded a combined six shots on goal during them, but reverted back to some old habits by waiting for the open shot and lacking net-front presence.

"You get three in the second, it would be nice to get one," Kane said. "Even if you're not getting anything on it, it's nice to get momentum off of it. I thought we did a decent job of getting momentum, getting some chances and some looks. Sometimes you've just got to converge on the net and hopefully get those rebounds and try to find a way to get one a little bit dirtier."

The Blackhawks also allowed a breakaway chance towards the end of the third power play, but Corey Crawford saved the day. Tyler Toffoli scored 19 seconds after the Blackhawks' first power play to make it 1-0 Kings.

4. Meet your newest Blackhawk

The Blackhawks had a visitor at morning skate in Carter Holmes, an 11-year-old from Wisconsin, who is battling Hodgkin's Lymphoma. As part of the Make-A-Wish Experience, Holmes became a Blackhawk for a day and practiced with the team, including his favorite player Patrick Kane.

"I might have to change my number," Kane joked about Holmes, who wears No. 88 because of Kane. "I think he was a little bit better than me out there today."

It was the first time Holmes skated since being diagnosed on June 30, four days after his team took first place at a tournament. Holmes feared that he would never be able to play hockey again, but that won't be the close. He's expected to re-join his teammates soon, even if it may take a while to get back into game shape.

"It's pretty special," Kane said of Holmes, who will drop the ceremonial first puck on Sunday for "Hockey Fights Cancer" Night at the United Center. "Sometimes you're just playing hockey and worried about the business aspect of it, but days like today you can take a step back and realize there's more important things out there."

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Updates on the start Jeremy Colliton era

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Updates on the start Jeremy Colliton era

SportsTalk Live is on location at the United Center for Blackhawks Authentic Fan Night. Charlie Roumeliotis, Jay Cohen and Jimmy Greenfield join Chuck Garfien on the panel.

0:00- Pat Boyle stops by to talk about the start of the Jeremy Colliton era and to preview the huge Sunday Night showdown between the Bears and Vikings.

19:00- Adam Burish joins the panel to preview the Blackhawks and Kings and to talk about how the Hawks players are reacting to a 33-year old head coach.

Listen to the full epiosde here or via the embedded player below: 

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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