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Brandon Saad ready for Hawks’ debut

Updated: October 4, 2011 2:48PM

Brandon Saad couldn’t be happier. With his three-year, entry-level deal complete, the 18-year-old from the Pittsburgh area is officially part of the Blackhawks.

“It’s going to be awesome,” Saad said.

Saad was taken with the 43rd overall pick in June’s draft, but he was projected to be a first-round pick. He used his falling draft status as motivation.

“He was disappointed to be not a first-round pick,” general manager Stan Bowman said. “To his credit, he took that as a challenge. We noticed him starting out in the summer with our prospect camp. When we get here, the competition has gone up each time and he’s responded to the challenge.

“He’s earned a spot.”

That spot is on the first line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp. Saad will make his NHL debut Friday against the Dallas Stars.

“It’s pretty unbelievable,” Saad said. “They’re both great players. Being to be with the great team we have and try to compete with them, it helps a lot.”

In injury news, Sharp (appendectomy) will play Friday and Ben Smith (concussion) returned to practice on Tuesday. It’s possible Smith will play against the Stars. Viktor Stalberg (leg) will start the season on injured reserve.

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