Blackhawks’ Brandon Saad spared the indignity of a rare healthy scratch
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Brandon Saad came close Thursday to being a healthy scratch for the first time with the Blackhawks since April 2014.
Coach Joel Quenneville’s unspoken message to the 25-year-old forward leading up to a 4-1 loss to the Coyotes at the United Center suggested as much, at least.
Instead, after consecutive practices clad in a white jersey — signifying he had lost his position among the Hawks’ top four lines — Saad was active against the Coyotes, opening on the fourth line with Marcus Kruger and David Kampf.
Saad logged only 13:23 of ice time and has zero goals and two assists on a team that has scored 23 times in six games. To Quenneville, it has been more of the same subpar production from a gifted player whose 17-goal, 18-assist output last season represented five-year lows — despite a career high in ice time — on both counts.
‘‘Last year, you look at the number of high-quality scoring chances he had, his production should’ve been better,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘Whether it’s the emotion or the intensity in those scoring areas, whether it’s confidence, whether it’s just bearing down, those are situations [that require] more determination or whatever it’s going to take to find a way to score or to have the puck.’’
One person who wasn’t prepared to criticize Saad’s play was Saad himself.
‘‘I think there’s been some plays being made out there,’’ he said. ‘‘I think with the puck, I’ve made some good plays, regardless of who I’ve been with. They’re not always going in. [And], obviously, we have to tighten up defensively, not just myself but as a group.’’
Quenneville was satisfied enough with Saad’s practice performance to keep him in the lineup.
‘‘He always works hard in practice and in the game, as well,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘But I just think that we need more from him with possession of the puck.’’
Among the players taking the ice for the Coyotes were five former Hawks: Vinnie Hinostroza, Jordan Oesterle, Richard Panik, Antti Raanta and — oh, yeah — Niklas Hjalmarsson.
It was Hjalmarsson’s first game at the United Center not playing for the home team. He was a blue-line staple for a decade before being dealt for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June 2017, and the Hawks honored him with a video tribute during the first period.
‘‘We were all sad to see him leave this locker room,’’ captain Jonathan Toews said. ‘‘He did a lot special things here and was a massive part of our championships. I’m happy for him to get that reception. It’s well-deserved, and obviously we miss having him around here.’’
Three? Not a crowd
With a glut of upcoming games — and with Corey Crawford back in action — the Hawks carried three goalies into the weekend, including No. 2 Cam Ward and No. 3 Anton Forsberg. If Crawford responds well after missing nearly 10 months, Forsberg’s days on the roster will be numbered.