Brandon Saad

Second-line center spot up for grabs in Chicago


There wasn’t a lot to dislike about the Chicago Blackhawks when they entered the 2013 playoffs. This was, after all, a team that had gone 36-7-5 in the regular season, easily winning the Presidents’ Trophy.

But if one had to nitpick, it might’ve been about the team’s second-line center, which at the time appeared to be veteran Michal Handzus.

The ‘Hawks had recently given up a fourth-round draft pick to get Handzus from San Jose, where the 36-year-old had scored just two points in 28 games. He was a bit more productive in 11 games with the Blackhawks, but productive enough to be a second-line center on a Stanley Cup contender? There were doubters.

Handzus ended up proving those doubters wrong, finishing with 11 points in 23 playoff games as the ‘Hawks went on to win their second championship in four years. He then re-signed for one more season in Chicago, at a modest salary of $1 million. Plus, he had a couple of surgeries.

Despite his surprisingly strong playoff performance, Handzus isn’t really the player the Blackhawks want playing second-line center next season. Nor will it be Dave Bolland, who was traded to Toronto.

Ahead of training camp, it’s young Brandon Saad who seems to have the inside edge.

“Saader is probably the guy we’re thinking maybe grab that spot, would be an option,” head coach Joel Quenneville said in late July. “It’s something we talked about as a staff late in the year. It’s something going into the season we could be exploring.”

Saad, 20, is coming off an outstanding rookie season, but that was playing on the wing. At center, there are additional responsibilities, particularly in the defensive end.

“Defensively, I think we can get him up to speed,” said Quenneville.

“At the end of the day, I mean I don’t really care who’s going to grab it, but it’s a nice spot for somebody.”

Other options include Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger, Handzus, Brandon Pirri and Drew LeBlanc.

Goalie nods: Greiss gets start over injured Halak

Thomas Greiss
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Thomas Greiss will be between the pipes for the New York Islanders when they host the Blackhawks tonight in Brooklyn.

Greiss was signed this offseason to back up Jaroslav Halak, who skated this morning but remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

“Jaro’s not 100 percent right now, so it was an easy decision,” coach Jack Capuano told Newsday. “Jaro’s progressing well and we’ll see how he is moving forward.”

Greiss will be backed up by J-F Berube, who was claimed off waivers from Los Angeles earlier in the week.

Corey Crawford will be in goal for Chicago.

These two teams meet again tomorrow at United Center.


Michael Hutchinson goes for the Jets in New Jersey after Ondrej Pavelec got the win last night in Boston. Cory Schneider for the Devils.

Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers. Sergei Bobrovsky for the Blue Jackets in their opener.

Jonathan Bernier for the Leafs. Jimmy Howard for the Red Wings in their opener.

Mike Smith for the Coyotes. Jonathan Quick likely for the Kings, who will need a better effort than the one they had Wednesday against San Jose.

Related: Mike Smith seeing benefit from sports psychologist

No hearing scheduled for Burmistrov after Bergeron headshot


Winnipeg forward Alex Burmistrov isn’t in line for a disciplinary hearing for his elbow to the head of Boston’s Patrice Bergeron on Thursday night, an NHL spokesman confirmed to PHT.

Burmistrov was tagged with an illegal check to the head minor late in the first period. Bergeron received a minor roughing penalty for retaliating on the Russian forward, but was able to finish the contest.

Afterward, B’s head coach Claude Julien expressed frustration with the hit.

“It will be interesting how that is being reviewed, and especially to an elite player in the league who’€™s had some [concussion] issues in the past,” Julien said, per WEEI. “I hope they look at it seriously. In my mind, I don’€™t see why there wouldn’t be further consequences [for] that.”

Bergeron said that, while it was “definitely a hit to the head,” Burmistrov did come up to him afterward and apologized.

According to sources of CSNNE’s Joe Haggerty, Burmistrov received a warning from the Department of Player Safety.