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Brandon Saad gets off the schneid with a goal in Game 1

“He’s the ultimate player, as far as in all zones. Offensively, his numbers may be down, but the one thing you get from [Toews], without the puck, they’ve got to be concerned with him.” JOEL QUENNEVILLE

Updated: July 16, 2013 6:32AM



Yes, Brandon Saad is a rookie. And obviously, this is his first run through the Stanley Cup playoffs. But he had been here before. Just a few months ago, actually, at the start of the season — shots going just wide, great chances getting blocked, passes just a tick off line, endlessly buzzing around the net with nothing to show for it.

So even though it took Saad 18 games to notch his first playoff goal, in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against Boston, he never got truly frustrated. But Jonathan Toews — mired in a scoring drought of his own — knows how much that goal meant to the rookie, who suddenly finds himself back with Toews and Marian Hossa after a stint on the third line.

“He’s been around the net so much, he’s had so many chances, that people don’t notice it until he finally scores,” Toews said. “I’m sure it’s a huge relief for him. To have Saader back on the scoresheet like that gives him so much more confidence that he can go out there and make plays in every area of the rink. That’s just what scoring goals does for you.”

Saad called the playoffs a “learning experience,” and credited the veterans for staying in his ear and the coaches for largely staying out. Now that he’s back on the top line, he hopes to play the same aggressive two-way game he’s played all year — only with some production to show for it.

“They’re both great players,” he said. “We have a good team, solid with four lines, so you’re always going to play with good players. But those guys are world-class players. … I don’t think too much changes. You still want to work hard and do the little things, but you obviously want too produce a little more playing on the top line.”

With Saad back on the top line at Friday’s practice, Bryan Bickell skated on the third line with Dave Bolland and Andrew Shaw.

Campaigning for Crow

Corey Crawford is suddenly being mentioned as a potential goalie for Canada in the 2014 Olympics. Crawford said it would be an “honor.” Toews said it’s about time.

“I’m happy people are asking that question all week, I think he deserves it,” Toews said. “To get to that level, you need to have some sort of a name in the media, and have people know who you are. If they didn’t before, I think everyone knows who Corey Crawford is now.”

Duncan Keith agreed that Crawford is worthy of more recognition.

“If you guys keep talking about him, he might [get it],” Keith said. “He’s making the saves, and that’s all we care about.”

Workhorse

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville called Keith “a thoroughbred” after he played 48:40 in the epic Game 1 victory. Keith shrugged off the idea that he did something special.

“I don’t really think about it too much,” he said. “I’m just out there playing the game. I played a lot of minutes my whole life, even as a kid growing up. I want to be out on the ice. I think everybody likes to be on the ice a lot. Forty-plus minutes is a lot, but I think obviously we don’t want to have to play those types of games every game, but you take it as it comes.”

Horton update

Boston’s top-line right wing Nathan Horton practiced on Friday after suffering an apparent shoulder injury in overtime of Game 1. Bruins coach Claude Julien said he was still “day to day.”

“We’ll have to make a decision on him [Saturday],” Julien said. “It was encouraging to see him out there today. If he feels good, he’s in the lineup, simple as that.”



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