Blackhawks Notes: Kane, Hossa to Play Wednesday; Could Saad Make the Team?

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Patrick Sharp in pre-game warmups

The Chicago Blackhawks will take on the Detroit Red Wings tonight at the United Center, but before they do, here are some news and notes to get you set for what will be the first game with the Opening Night roster taking to the ice:

….Except for Patrick Sharp

Patrick Sharp will not be in the lineup for the Blackhawks tonight, but he has been skating on his own for the past few days, and head coach Joel Quenneville has said he is still optimistic that Sharp will be in the lineup Opening Night. If he isn’t, there are a couple of guys who could theoretically replace him:

Brandon Saad

Saad will play again tonight for the Hawks, making him the only player on the team to have appeared in all five preseason games. He has survived every roster cut so far, and his presence in the lineup tonight could be a sign that Quenneville is giving some serious thought to keeping him around, at least for the short-term. Saad can still return to the Saginaw Spirit, his OHL team, even if he makes the roster coming out of training camp, but he would have a nine game limit to his NHL tenure should the Hawks choose to send him back.

Now, the real question is whether or not the Hawks should keep Saad with them. Granted, he is a second round pick, and it’s almost unheard of for one of those type of guys to make a team as a first-year player, but Saad has exceeded expectations in nearly every way. He is a high-energy guy on a team that suffered from a lack of it last season, and he has shown a nose for the puck and an ability to protect it even though he is still incredibly young. Quenneville certainly would rather let Saad marinate for another year in the juniors, but if he comes out with an explosive performance tonight on home ice, he may be forced to pull the trigger and put him in the lineup against Dallas on October 7th.

Brandon Pirri

Pirri is another option to replace Sharp if he is not able to go Opening Night, but he probably would only stick around if the Hawks decide not to go with Patrick Kane at center (more on him later). If Kane ends up flaming out spectacularly in that position before camp breaks, then the Hawks will likely shift Sharp back to that spot to start with if healthy, and Pirri has shown that he has improved significantly from last season when he made his NHL debut. Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago said it best when he stated that Pirri would likely fill the role of “first Rockford call-up”.

Kane, Hossa to Play Tonight Against Detroit

As teased in the title of this piece, both Kane and Marian Hossa will make their preseason debuts tonight. Hossa has been dealing with off the ice issues as of late, with his wife giving birth to a daughter and the death of his close friend Pavol Demitra in a plane crash. Kane obviously has been dealing with his wrist injury, but has been practicing and scrimmaging with the team since the opening of camp.

Both players will also play on the same line, with Kane centering Hossa and Andrew Brunette. It will be the first time we’ll see Kane at the center spot in game action as Quenneville looks for someone to fill the second line role for this team. With only three preseason games left, it’s going to be a lightning quick trial by fire for the fifth-year veteran (yes, Kane is already entering his fifth NHL season. Let that sink in for a moment), and it will be very interesting to see whether or not he succeeds in that role.

Other Tidbits

Forward Bryan Bickell hasn’t been impressing coach Quenneville much during this preseason, and there have been whispers about what his role will be with the team should he continue to struggle. Those were set off when Q told the media yesterday “he needs to get going I know [Bickell] is coming off [an injury] last year [and is] dealing with that. But we’re looking for Bick’s game to improve as we go along here.”

If you’ll recall, Quenneville wasn’t happy with Bickell’s play last season either, and he benched him for a couple of games in response. Bickell came back strong and had a nice season, scoring 17 goals and establishing himself as a bottom-six forward of the future for the team. This preseason he has been slow-starting after coming back from a wrist injury that knocked him out of the last game of the playoffs last season, and he will need to have a strong finish if he is going to lock down a spot in the starting lineup.

-Corey Crawford will start in goal tonight for Chicago, and he is slated to play the entire game. He looked good in his only other preseason action, giving up two goals and making 24 saves en route to helping the Hawks win their only game so far of the preseason. While the backup battle has raged behind him with Alexander Salak and Ray Emery going at it, Crawford has been able to relax in his new role and prepare knowing that he’s the guy, and it will be interesting to see this season if that comfort in knowing his place with the club will result in him looking sluggish, or free him up to be even better.

-David Toews is currently in the Rockford IceHogs’ training camp and is making an effort to improve his game enough to make it back to the Hawks’ roster at some point in the near future. Reed Schreck had a nice piece in the  on the subject, including some solid quotes from the 21-year old.

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