Blackhawks’ Brandon Saad spared the indignity of a rare healthy scratch

Brandon Saad came close Thursday to being a healthy scratch for the first time as a member of the Blackhawks since April 2014. At least, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville’s unspoken message to the 25-year-old forward leading up to a game against the Coyotes at the United Center strongly suggested as much.

Instead, after consecutive practices clad in a white jersey — signifying he’d lost his position among the team’s top four lines — Saad was active against the Coyotes, skating on the No. 4 line with Marcus Kruger and David Kampf.

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Saad came in with two assists and zero goals on a team that binged offensively in its first five games. To Quenneville, cheap nhl jerseys it was more of the same subpar production from a gifted player whose 17-goal, 18-assist output in 2017-18 represented five-year lows — despite a career high in ice time — on both counts.

“Last year, you look at the number of high-quality scoring chances he had, his production should’ve been better,” Quenneville said. “Whether it’s the emotion or the intensity in those scoring areas, whether it’s confidence, whether it’s just bearing down, those are situations [that require] more determination or whatever it’s going to take to find a way to score or to have the puck.”

“I think there’s been some plays being made out there,” he said. “I think with the puck, I’ve made some good plays regardless of who I’ve been with. They’re not always going in. [And] obviously, as a team we have to tighten up defensively, not just myself but as a group.”

Quenneville was satisfied enough with Saad’s practice performance to keep him in the lineup.

“He always works hard in practice and in the game as well,” the coach said. “But I just think that we need more from him with possession of the puck.”

Hjalmarsson returns

Taking the ice for the Coyotes included five former Blackhawks: Vinnie Hinostroza, Jordan Oesterle, Richard Panik, Antti Raanta and — oh, yeah, that guy — Niklas Hjalmarsson.

It was Hjalmarrson’s first game at the United Center not playing for the home team. He was a blue-line staple for a decade before being dealt for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June, and was honored with a video tribute during the first period.

“Hammer, he’s been part of all the success we had here,” Quenneville said. “He was a big part of the reason. … I had a real appreciation for him over the years, and you wish him well and certainly you miss [him].”

Three? Not a crowd

With a glut of upcoming games — and with Corey Crawford freshly back in action — the Hawks carried three goalies into the weekend, including No. 2 man Cam Ward and No. 3 Anton Forsberg. If Crawford responds well to his first start in nearly 10 months, Forsberg’s days on the roster will be numbered.

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