Saad meeting Quenneville's expectations

January, 30, 2013
1/30/13
3:04
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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Brandon SaadKirk Irwin/Getty ImagesBrandon Saad has no points through five games this season.
CHICAGO -- Being placed beside Chicago Blackhawks stars Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews on the team's first line put a spotlight on rookie forward Brandon Saad to begin the season.

Saad had already gained some attention after being called up twice last season, including once in the playoffs, as a 19-year-old. He registered one assist and averaged 13-plus minutes in four games last season.

Now with Saad having some experience under his belt and playing beside two of the NHL's top forwards, the thought was Saad would begin to flourish offensively and watch as his career numbers in assists and goals added up.

So far, that hasn't happened. He has no goals or assists through five games.

While some fans have questioned Saad's lack of production and wondered if he's fit for the first line, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said he's pleased with Saad's play on that line and doesn't foresee any changes.

"You look at some of the quality chances," Quenneville said on Tuesday. "We're not just getting some chances. We're getting some Grade-A quality chances around the net. I'm not going to put a name or number on it as far as he has to score or how long he's going to be there. To me, he hasn't done anything wrong.

"He's playing a team game we want him to play, playing it the right way, young kid as well. Don't want to put too much expectation on him there to stay, but keep doing what you're doing and you'll find your rhythm to it."

Quenneville also believes it is a matter of Saad catching a break. Saad has taken 11 shots on goal, including a career-high five shots against the Dallas Stars, and is averaging 12.48 minutes of ice time a game. He's also delivered a few point-on passes his teammates haven't converted.

"You know you look at his production and Saad and you look the chances, at what he's generated and how the line has played, how effective they've been," said Quenneville, who moved Saad onto the first line when Daniel Carcillo was injured in the season opener. "It seems like every shift they're in the offensive zone. They're dangerous off the rush.

"The finish hasn't been there or whoever he gives it to, but we like what they're creating. Feel at some point, things are going to start going in the net for them. We don't want them to change the way they're playing and how things are developing on the ice."

Saad's consistency is one area Rockford IceHogs coach Ted Dent believed Saad needed to improve. He had eight goals and 12 assists in 31 games for the IceHogs in the AHL during the NHL lockout.

"The biggest thing for Brandon is to develop that consistency night in and night out," Dent said recently. "In Rockford, he struggled a little bit with that as well. It's a grind, especially in the American Hockey League, it's three games in three nights, three games in four nights. They're doing that in the NHL now, but that's something we do every year.

"As far as his play, his puck protection and his strength along the walls and corners he's good in those areas. I'm sure his consistency will get better."

Hossa also spoke highly of Saad. He's been most impressed by Saad's ability to win the puck for their line.

"First of all, he's such a young guy," Hossa said. "I think he does extremely well with the skating ability, getting the puck and battling. He's strong with skating. He's strong with corners. The more he's going to feel more comfortable, the more confident he'll get. He's winning the battles. That's huge for our line."
Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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