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Dent keeping Morin, Pirri focused on goal

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Rockford IceHogs coach Ted Dent gave Brandon Pirri and Jeremy Morin a few days to themselves the last time each was reassigned from the Chicago Blackhawks.

Pirri was sent back to the IceHogs on Dec. 4 after playing in 24 games for the Blackhawks. Morin was reassigned to Rockford on Dec. 16. He’s appeared in 15 games for the Blackhawks this season.

“Usually give them a few days for it to settle in and sort of see their body language and their attitude, then I eventually talk to them, for sure,” Dent said prior to Sunday’s road game with the Chicago Wolves. “They’ve been here for four years, so I know them real well. It’s a mental thing, for sure. It’s not physical or anything like that. It’s just trying to get motivated to play in this league again and be productive and be part of our team.”

Dent understands each trip back to the IceHogs has become more difficult for Pirri and Morin because they feel they’ve earned a full-time spot on the Blackhawks.

“It’s been hard for them, mentally more than anything,” Dent said. “[Morin] has had to do it a few times this year, not often as Pirri. It’s difficult, especially for Brandon. He played 20-plus games in the NHL. He was a little surprised when he came down here.

“It hasn’t been easy for them. That’s for sure. It’s part of the business. They just have to accept that and work as hard as they can to get back up.”

Pirri was beginning to get on a roll for the IceHogs before he suffered a recent lower-body injury. He scored goals in consecutive games Dec. 27 and Dec. 30. He hasn’t played since then and is considered day to day. He’s had three goals and four assists in 10 games since being reassigned to the IceHogs.

Morin has one goal and one assist in eight games since returning to the IceHogs. His lack of scoring hasn’t been for lack of shots. He has 31 shots on goal over those eight games.

Dent said his advice to Morin and Pirri is what a lot of coaches tell their players.

“One of the things I tell them is, ‘It is what it is,’” Dent said. “It’s just a classic hockey saying. They don’t have any control over any of the decisions that are made. The only thing they control is their play on the ice and their professionalism and their attitude and their work ethic. Whether they’re in the NHL or the American League, you have to have that every day to be successful.”

Pirri and Morin become restricted free agents after the season. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said recently he planned for both players to remain in the organization.

“I think we’ve seen this with a lot of young players,” Bowman said in December. “It takes a few years to develop. Patience is a tough thing for young players. I understand that. We don’t have as many positions for players to go around.

“Other players in other organizations might get a chance sooner. It goes both ways. You might not be quite ready for the role. We just bring guys along slow. We want them to be consistent and get better.”

Dent admitted one of the reasons for a player to stay motivated is other organizations are watching. The Blackhawks dealt prospects Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen for Kris Versteeg earlier this season.

“That’s another thing we talk about, for sure,” Dent said. “With the depth the Blackhawks have, it’s a hard to team make. It’s hard to stick to. So you’re definitely auditioning and trying to put on a show for other teams, other general managers because there are other opportunities and there are transactions and things happen during the year.”