Pirri making the most of his opportunity

October, 22, 2013
10/22/13
3:23
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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Brandon Pirri Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesBrandon Pirri has done his best to make a good impression with his latest shot with the Blackhawks.
CHICAGO -- All Brandon Pirri wanted was a chance to showcase his ability to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Pirri's opportunity arrived and quickly departed due to an injury in training camp. He didn't get a chance to show much, and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville didn't see much, so Pirri was returned to the Rockford IceHogs.

Disappointed and frustrated, Pirri went back to work in the American Hockey League and waited for his next call-up. That came sooner than later, and he was recalled by the Blackhawks on Oct. 11 after three games with the IceHogs.

Back in Chicago and healthy, Pirri's objective was not to let another opportunity slip away. Nearly two week later, he's headed down the right path with two goals and one assist in three games, impressing Quenneville.

"This is big for me," Pirri said recently. "I wanted to make an impression. Not playing a lot of training camp was tough. But I knew if I worked hard and stayed positive down there, I'd get another opportunity, and I would have to make the most of it."

Pirri's talent begins with his offense. He led the AHL with 75 points last season. He's a bit of scorer and distributor, and he's shown that off in the three games with the Blackhawks.

Pirri's first career NHL goal came against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday when he found open ice in the left circle, received a pass from Marian Hossa and fired a shot into the corner of the net. A game later against the Toronto Maple Leafs, he delivered the puck to defenseman Mike Kostka in the slot and Kostka put home a goal. Later in the game, Pirri took advantage of some power-play time and scored on a one-timer in front of the net.

Pirri's offense has come at a good time for the Blackhawks. Although they are 5-1-2 overall, the Blackhawks haven't scored more than three goals in a game since the season opener. Pirri has accounted for two of their last five goals.

"Offensively, we like what he brings," Quenneville said. "Trust your instincts there. In that area, I think he'll be fine. Very handy with the puck so far. I just think he's in a situation where we expect him to get better and the opportunity could be better as we go along here."

That better opportunity could mean second-line center for Pirri. It's a place many thought he was destined for during training camp. With the offensive game in place, Pirri just needs to show Quenneville he can handle everything else. He's played mostly on the fourth line so far.

Quenneville touched on some of those adjustments Pirri had to make after practice on Monday.

"I'm probably saying the strength in the puck area," Quenneville said. "Guys, they're trickier. They protect the puck well. They have some strength. They're strong at faceoffs as well. I think responsibility defensively knowing how we want to play. You've got to be dependable, reliable down low in your end. Place a little more emphasis on assignment, job down there."

Pirri is aware of where his game needs growth. They are areas he was concentrating on in Rockford as well.

"There's always room to improve," Pirri said. "I've really been focusing on that and trying to get better every day."

Pirri isn't thinking about playing second-line center. He's still out to showcase his ability and hopeful the rest will take care of itself.

"I'm just taking it day by day, can't control that stuff," Pirri said. "If I keep playing my game and keep getting the bounces, things will happen."
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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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Kane
PTS GOALS AST +/-
36 16 20 9
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Kane 16
AssistsP. Kane 20
+/-K. Versteeg 15
GAAC. Crawford 2.00