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Blackhawks are sold on Brandon Saad’s ‘huge’ upside

Chicago Blackhawks Headshots

Chicago Blackhawks Headshots

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Updated: February 16, 2013 6:27AM



Had he had been allowed to, left wing Brandon Saad would have had no qualms about hopping in a car and making the short drive from Milwaukee to Johnny’s IceHouse West in time for the first day of training camp on Sunday afternoon. When you’re hot as Saad is, you don’t want to miss a day.

But the Blackhawks wanted Saad, center Brandon Pirri and defenseman Ryan Stanton to take Sunday off after back-to-back games with the Rockford IceHogs on Friday and Saturday nights. So Saad showed up Monday raring to go. And based on the nifty little move he put on Ray Emery during breakaway drills toward the end of the workout, he’s still got a hot hand.

Saad scored the game-winning goals in each of the two IceHogs games over the weekend, including an overtime goal at Milwaukee. The Pittsburgh native had four points against Grand Rapids on Friday, and two more against Milwaukee, earning AHL Player of the Week honors.

With just four days to show his stuff before the Hawks leave for Los Angeles, his timing couldn’t have been any better.

“It’s definitely exciting,” he said. “It’s nice to have a good weekend and have some confidence coming in.”

Saad — a second-round pick in 2011 — burst onto the scene during the preseason last season, and was the only member of his draft class to make the opening-day roster. He appeared in two games before being shipped back to the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit, where he had 34 goals and 42 assists in 44 games. He also appeared in two playoff games against Phoenix last season.

“His potential’s huge,” said Hawks coach Joel Quenneville, who got to see Saad play often during the lockout. “This year down in Rockford, watching him play, he’s had some stretches where he was great and had some stretches where he was just OK. He’s capable of playing at our level and being a good player at our level.”

That said, the Hawks haven’t had any turnover among their forwards, so Saad’s chances of making the team in four days are slim. But in a ­compressed season, ­anything can happen, and Saad figures to get his chance at some point.

Precautions

Marcus Kruger missed Monday’s workout with the flu. Quenneville said the team will be particularly vigilant against the flu this season, giving the severe nature of this year’s bug, and the compressed schedule.

“I’ve seen it happen and it can cause major disruptions to your team, so we’ve talked about it yesterday and mentioned it again today,” he said.

Noteworthy

Quenneville said Viktor Stalberg, coming off a career-high 22-goal season, “definitely” will get some time on the Hawks’ ­beleaguered power-play unit.

◆ The Hawks recalled forward Jimmy Hayes from Rockford. Hayes had eight goals and nine assists in 37 games with the IceHogs.



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