Brandon Pirri appeared to be the favorite to win the second line center job before the season. An injury during the preseason jeopardized Pirri’s chances, and ended with him being sent to Rockford of the American Hockey League. That changed over the weekend.
Pirri was recalled Saturday, while winger Jimmy Hayes was sent down. Michal Handzus had been shuffled in and out of the second line center role, and an open audition has been set into motion. Pirri’s first game this season was spent on the fourth line.
Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger, and Handzus will continue to get looks in between stars Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp, but Brandon Pirri is the best fit, as long as he gets a chance to show it. Coach Joe Quenneville has said that Pirri needed to develop a better two-way game to add defense with his offensive style. Last season in Rockford, Pirri scored 75 points in 76 games, leading the league but there was zero mentioned of his defensive play.
When the 22-year old finally gets slotted on the second line, most fans (and coaching) should be willing to let Pirri’s defense grow will his playmaking abilities shine. Chicago boasts a strong group of centers. Shaw and Kruger cycle as centers when on the ice, which is a blessing. Those two also possess a stronger ability to play defense, giving Pirri more time to showcase his offensive skills. With Shaw, Kruger, and All-Star Jonathan Toews logging minutes in their own zone, coaches can improve Pirri’s two-way game under a supporting shadow.
It feels like the search for the elusive second line center will continue on Chicago’s west side, but now that Brandon Pirri has a chance to play that search needs to end.
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