Blackhawks tentatively end Saad-at-center experiment

Blackhawks tentatively end Saad-at-center experiment
September 22, 2013, 7:30 pm
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DETROIT –- Brandon Saad was back at left wing on Sunday when the Chicago Blackhawks faced the Detroit Red Wings. A surprise for a guy the Blackhawks were considering for second-line center, but a familiar spot for Saad nonetheless.

“I’m a born winger, I’ve played there pretty much my whole life,” Saad said after the Blackhawks’ 4-3 victory over the Wings, during which Saad was on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Ben Smith. “They tried me out, they’ve got some guys coming back from injury, and they put me back at wing for a bit.”

So does that mean the Saad-at-center experiment is over before the regular season even gets going?

“I’ll say it’s over for today,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It’s always out there. It’s always an option we can go to.”

[More: Smith confident his time has come with Blackhawks]

Perhaps, but for all intents and purposes, it looks like Saad is back at his natural position. Not that he’ll complain; Saad was willing to play wherever the Blackhawks wanted him. But with a lifetime of wing play under his belt, it looks like the team will play to his strengths.

For what it’s worth, Saad said he did feel better his second game at center, last week against Pittsburgh.

“If I get a chance to play center, I’ll play it. But right now I’m playing wing,” said Saad, who took a shot to his right hand/wrist area late against the Wings on Sunday. It looked like he was getting an X-ray after the game just to make sure all was well.

[More: Saad on move back to wing]

So, for now, the Blackhawks go back to the second-line-center drawing board, a sight all too familiar to them. Quenneville said they have other options there, including Michal Handzus, who performed brilliantly there during the postseason. Handzus has yet to play in a preseason game; Quenneville said he should be ready for the regular season’s start. Brandon Pirri, who’s missed about a week with a lower-body injury, will return tomorrow against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Wardrobe Woes

Bryan Bickell was set to play today’s game against Detroit but was a late scratch due to a “wardrobe malfunction,” Quenneville said. When asked for specifics, Quenneville said “lower wardrobe malfunction.”

The issue got defenseman Mike Kostka back into the lineup, albeit as a forward. It was a surprise for Kostka, especially where he played; he said he last played forward “maybe when I was 7 or 8.” Still, it was a welcome return for Kostka, who sustained a stiff neck – he said he didn’t suffer a concussion – from that Teemu Pulkkinen hit last week. Kostka said the Wings forward called and apologized to him for the hit.

“It’s water under the bridge,” said Kostka, who will be back at his familiar defenseman spot tomorrow in Pittsburgh.

[More: Kostka on surprise move to forward]

Briefly

-- Defenseman Michal Rozsival played in his first preseason game of 2013-14 on Sunday. Rozsival played just under 26 minutes, recording two blocked shots and two hits.

-- Nikolai Khabibulin will start tomorrow night vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins.

-- Marian Hossa (upper body) is still not skating. Coach Joel Quenneville hopes Hossa can return to the ice on Wednesday.

-- Andrew Shaw skated back in Chicago. He’s unlikely to play tomorrow night in Pittsburgh.

-- The Blackhawks will make more roster cuts after tomorrow’s game.