CALGARY, Alberta — Brandon Pirri felt the emotions any hopeful NHL player would when he was reassigned to the Rockford IceHogs in December.
The young center wanted to be part of the Chicago Blackhawks, wanted to stick around longer. But now he’s back, and he hopes to turn this chance into a long-term stay.
Pirri was recalled by the Blackhawks on Monday and was centering the second line with Kris Versteeg and Patrick Kane Tuesday morning, prior to the Blackhawks’ game against the Calgary Flames. Pirri obviously wants to take advantage of this second chance.
“It’s another opportunity, and that’s what I was looking for,” Pirri said. “I got a good taste of it (at the end of 2013), and it was disappointing getting sent down. But this is another opportunity, and I want to make the most of it."
Offensively, Pirri’s talent is obvious. He’s got a great shot and isn’t afraid to fire it. But the Blackhawks wanted him to improve his defense; coach Joel Quenneville stresses a two-way game from his players, feeding into that defense-creates-offense mantra that’s worked so well for the Blackhawks. Quenneville said Pirri did show strides in his defensive play on his last stint.
“He made in roads last time. He progressed (to where) he was aware of his responsibilities, the team game,” Quenneville said. “We expect him to be cognizant of how he has to play without the puck.”
Pirri’s past being nervous in playing with the Blackhawks. At this point, it’s more about keeping his game steady than about quelling butterflies.
“It’s about being a full, 200-foot player,” he said. “That consistency is something I went (to Rockford) to work on, and if I’m doing what I can every game, staying consistent, that’s going to help me stay here a little longer. Some games the puck seemed to be following me around, and other times I wasn’t getting touches. It’s just another opportunity to stay positive and do what I can.”
Pirri is getting another opportunity with the Blackhawks. Quenneville said Pirri’s shown better play on the other side of the puck; he needs to keep doing that.
“It’s being aware of how we play and watching his play as well, and he’ll be in tune with his defensive responsibilities,” Quenneville said. “He made progress, and we expect to see progress in his return.”