Saad shows no signs of slipping
BY SETH GRUEN Staff Reporter February 2, 2014 8:24PM
Chicago Blackhawks v San Jose Sharks
The facts: 9:30 p.m., Ch. 9, 720-AM.
Updated: February 2, 2014 9:22PM
LOS ANGELES — Brandon Saad has done his best to dispel the idea of a sophomore slump. The Blackhawks second-year winger even has coach Joel Quenneville throwing out the notion as it pertains to Saad.
‘‘Coming into the league, having a strong start this year, sophomore jinx or the bounce factor, that was a possibility, and he hasn’t let that happen or disrupt his game,’’ Quenneville said.
How has he done that, exactly? By finding himself around the puck. During this road trip in particular, Saad has been the Hawks’ most dangerous player.
Through three games on the trip, he has five points. On Saturday, he scored the game-tying power-play goal in the third period that salvaged a point for the Hawks in an eventual shootout loss to the Sharks in San Jose.
‘‘Last year I was more just coming in and working hard, but this year, being more experienced and the success I had last year, it’s definitely gotten me more comfortable and confident,’’ Saad said. ‘‘I’m keeping it simple, sticking to little things, getting to the net, and my teammates are making nice plays. I’m just finishing them.’’
As a rookie in last year’s lockout-shortened season, Saad had 10 goals and 17 assists, numbers bound to give any young player confidence.
He has needed that this season. Adapting to new linemates is standard for Quenneville-coached teams. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy for a young player.
‘‘I’m pretty comfortable with it right now,’’ Saad said. ‘‘You get used to it, and we’ve got a lot of good players on this team. So whatever line I’m on, I’m looking to contribute and play well.
‘‘Especially with Q — he likes to mix things up, especially when things aren’t going well. Like I said, I’m fortunate to play with some great players here, and it’s helping out.’’
There’s more to come from Saad as far as Quenneville is concerned. In 57 games this season, he has 18 goals and 22 assists. Quenneville said his speed stands out as the asset that makes him most dangerous in the offensive zone.
‘‘He scored some nice power-play goals,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘He’s good with the puck — he’s got some speed, protects it well. I just think that he’s one of those players that should keep getting better with time.’’
NOTE: Winger Marian Hossa did not practice Sunday in the Hawks’ first practice of the road trip. He also didn’t skate during the morning skate before playing in Saturday’s loss.
Coach Joel Quenneville reiterated Sunday that the day off was strictly a maintenance day.
‘‘I know that your body usually tells you if you need a day off,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘So we’ll let him tell us, and he has that privilege.”