Brandon Pirri back with Hawks
BY MARK LAZERUS Staff Reporter October 12, 2013 10:18PM
Updated: November 14, 2013 6:55AM
It’s a seven-hour bus ride from Rockford to Cleveland — the jet-setting Blackhawks can make it from their homes to their Los Angeles hotel rooms in less time — so Brandon Pirri has had plenty of quiet time to ponder what went wrong during training camp. Pirri entered camp brimming with confidence that he would make the Hawks’ opening-night roster, only to suffer an injury, then an indignity.
It’s a humbling thing to be cut. But Pirri tried not to dwell on it and clung to coach Joel Quenneville’s parting order to ‘‘be ready,’’ that he would get his chance sooner or later.
‘‘Absolutely, for anyone to get sent down, it’s probably disappointing,’’ Pirri, 22, said. ‘‘But you’ve got to take it and make the best of it, become a better player because of it. You get a lot more minutes down there, so work on your game, come back here and be ready.’’
‘‘Here’’ was at the United Center on Saturday, as Pirri was called up after three games in Rockford. Jimmy Hayes was sent down because Quenneville needed a center with Michal Handzus getting a night off, and Pirri skated on the fourth line with Brandon Bollig and Ben Smith.
Quenneville hinted there might be a lot of shuttling between Rockford and Chicago, as Hayes, Pirri and Jeremy Morin were all ‘‘comparable.’’ A lot of it will be based on need. But Quenneville would love nothing more than to have someone step up and make the decision for him.
That’s what Pirri, with his surprisingly quick second chance, said he hopes to do.
‘‘Just like in camp, you’ve got to stay within yourself,’’ he said. ‘‘At the same time, you’ve got to do what’s brought you here. It’s my fourth year here. I know what I have to do to stick around.’’
Saturday was Pirri’s eighth NHL game. He opened some eyes last season by leading the American Hockey League in scoring with 22 goals and 53 assists, and general manager Stan Bowman mentioned him frequently as a likely replacement for the traded Dave Bolland.
Pirri’s offensive talents never have been in question; it’s his 200-foot game that hasn’t been up to NHL standards yet. But Pirri said he’s a much more complete player than he was earlier in his career.
‘‘As a 19-year-old, it’s sexy to put up a lot of points,’’ he said. ‘‘As an older guy, you kind of realize that offense comes from good defense. That’s something I focused on, and it has shown in my numbers.’’
Now he gets his chance to show whether those numbers will translate to the NHL level.