There are certain things the Chicago Blackhawks knew about Brandon Pirri entering this season.
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They knew the young center could score, at least at the American Hockey League level. And in his past two games, Pirri’s brought that to the NHL level, too, on 5-on-5 and on the power play.
What the Blackhawks want to see is how Pirri does with the other side of the game, the defense, the checking, all that. And if Pirri can develop his all-around game, then perhaps he could be the Blackhawks’ future second-line center.
Pirri scored his second goal in as many games on his power-play time in the Blackhawks’ 3-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night. The Blackhawks like what they’ve seen from Pirri in his short return up here, especially on the offensive side. Now they’ll see how he develops on the other end.
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“He’s been good,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “All these guys who are pushing for that opportunity here haven’t hurt themselves in any fashion. Nice to see him score, has a nice shot. Up here he’s capable of having some type of production but the other part of the game, that’s what we’re looking at, and he’s been good.”
And as far as Pirri being a future second-line center, Quenneville said, “give him some time, but we’re not discounting the opportunity.”
Pirri weathered the initial disappointment of not making the Blackhawks’ roster out of training camp. Missing about a week with a lower-body injury, Pirri didn’t have enough time at the end of camp to get ahead of bubble guys who were healthy and playing the entire time. When he got to Rockford, Pirri was told to stay sharp, have the right attitude and be ready for the call-up. Now that he’s back, honing is priority No. 1.
“Yeah, there’s always room to improve,” Pirri said. “I’ve been focusing on that and trying to get better every day.”
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While Pirri develops his entire game, he’s doing just fine on the offensive end. He got some power-play work on Saturday night and made the most of it. Quenneville said Pirri’s “play recognition” is evident.
“He’s got a great shot; it’s a tough play to make in a tough area with the one-timer,” Quenneville said of Pirri’s back-door shot. “But good play recognition, 5-on-5, and in the short amount of ice time he’s had, he’s been a nice fit for us. Moving up and getting the power-play opportunity is a good sign.”
The Blackhawks know what Pirri can do offensively. The rest will be part of his development. And if that works out well, there is a bright future in store for the 22-year-old center.
“I’m just taking it day by day. I can’t control that stuff,” Pirri said. “If I play my game, keep getting those bounces, things will happen.”