Blackhawks

Brandon Saad reflects on 'tough' first season with Blue Jackets

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Brandon Saad reflects on 'tough' first season with Blue Jackets

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Brandon Saad scored his 30th goal on Friday night, a pretty nice individual accomplishment for a young player who achieved some great team ones with the Blackhawks.

“It’s been a tough year,” he said. “But to finish off with some good hockey, score some goals and hit that valuable mark, it’s definitely something I’ll remember forever.”

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Indeed, this wasn’t an easy year for Saad. He got a six-year, $36-million contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets but the team struggled from the start and never regained its footing. Saad, who played all of his Blackhawks’ years under coach Joel Quenneville, went through two coaches in one season with the Jackets.

And it’ll be tough to see his former Blackhawks teammates head to the playoffs while he, for the first time in his young professional career, will miss them.

“Yeah, it’s tough,” he said prior to seeing the Blackhawks in the regular-season finale for both. “I’ve been playing a lot of hockey lately. It’s different with training, things like that. But it’s my first long summer to relax, recharge the batteries. You always want to be playing — I know I’ll be watching the games. But to have a full summer of training and go into next year, you just try to get better and do what you can.”

[MORE: Corey Crawford returns, Jonathan Toews sits vs. Blue Jackets]

Saad said he doesn’t think about what might have been if he and the Blackhawks could have worked out a deal last summer. They didn’t and as he said, “you move on.” He’ll always have friends in that locker room and always have great memories of the two Stanley Cups he won with the Blackhawks.

And yes, he’ll even check in every now and then this postseason to see how they’re doing.

“Right away it’s something to get away from the game and relax and get on vacation, things like that. But it’s definitely checking the scores, seeing toward the end who’s getting down there toward the end,” Saad said of the playoffs. “Seeing the year [the Blackhawks] had, it’s going to be a fun one tonight. But they have bigger and better things ahead of them.”

Niklas Hjalmarsson gets standing ovation from United Center crowd in Chicago return

Niklas Hjalmarsson gets standing ovation from United Center crowd in Chicago return

Niklas Hjalmarsson played for the Blackhawks for 10 years and won three Stanley Cups with the team so his return to the United Center was a big deal.

The defenseman, now with the Arizona Coyotes, made his return to Chicago in Thursday's game. The Blackhawks had a tribute video for him during the game and the crowd gave him a standing ovation after the video.

He was teary-eyed after getting the warm reception.

Hjalmarsson was traded by the Blackhawks to the Coyotes for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin after the 2016-17 season. He played against the Blackhawks on Oct. 21 and again on Feb. 12 last season, but both games were in Arizona.

Injuries limited Hjalmarsson to 48 games last season and he missed Arizona's only trip to the United Center last season, which came in December.

Watch the video above to see Hjalmarsson's tribute and reaction.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Corey Crawford is BACK, are the Bulls legitimate playoff contenders?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Corey Crawford is BACK, are the Bulls legitimate playoff contenders?

Mark Lazerus and Hub Arkush join David Kaplan on the panel.

The guys discuss Corey Crawford’s return and what it means for the team’s playoff chances.

Khalil Mack misses practice again. The guys debate if it would be better to leave him out vs. the Patriots.

The latest on the MLB playoffs with controversy in Houston and gamesmanship by the Brewers.

Will Perdue and Kendall Gill join the panel to discuss Kris Dunn’s absence from the opener and the team’s playoff chances this season.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below.

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