The Chicago Blackhawks have expected great things from 2011 second-round pick Brandon Saad. Over the weekend, the young wing got his game rolling in Rockford before coming up to Chicago for a shot at making the club.
Saad had a big weekend for the Blackhawks' AHL affiliate, leading the IceHogs to two wins. A six-point effort earned Saad the CCM/AHL Player of the Week Monday.
Saad is the second Rockford skater to receive this honor this season. Kyle Beach won the award back in the fourth week of the season.
Saad helped Rockford break a four-game skid Friday night against Grand Rapids, who beat a short-handed IceHogs squad 6-3 last Wednesday. Three assists and the game-winning goal sparked Rockford's 5-2 win at the BMO Center.
The following night, Saad's overtime goal earned his team a 2-1 victory in Milwaukee. Saad also had a secondary assist on Jeremy Morin's 13th goal of the season. The tally tied the game with under four minutes to play and set up Saad's game winning heroics 52 seconds into extra time.
Up until the weekend, Saad had six goals and eight helpers on the season in 26 games. The two goal, four assist explosion matched his offensive output in his previous 16 contests.
I noted last week that Saad has had difficulties in Rockford at times this season. Perhaps this weekend is the start of bigger things for him, either in Rockford or Chicago.
More Hogs In Camp: Eight IceHogs are now skating at Johnny's Icehouse as part of the Hawks' camp. Joining Saad in Chicago for now are Nick Leddy, Brandon Bollig, Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger, Brandon Pirri and Ryan Stanton. Jimmy Hayes was also recalled on Monday.
The IceHogs are not in action until Friday, when they host Peoria. As as result, Saad and the rest of the hopefuls can skate with an eye on making the team. I would expect three or four players to return to Rockford by the time the puck drops with the Rivermen.
Smith Victim Of Bad Luck: One of the players not recalled is Ben Smith, who happens to lead the team with 15 goals. Smith injured his hand Friday night, though he did finish the game and assisted on Saad's goal. He was not in the lineup Saturday and so far there is no timetable for a return.
Smith has rallied from an injury-plagued 2011-12 campaign only to see his chance to crack the 'Hawks lineup disappear for now. Hopefully this is nothing serious and Smith can get back to action. If any of the IceHogs deserved a call-up, it was him.
Big Homestand Coming Up: Rockford players will be available if needed with the IceHogs settling in for a five-game stretch at the BMO Center.
After this weekend's games with Peoria and Grand Rapids, Rockford plays host to Texas, Chicago and Oklahoma City. The game with the Barons loses a little luster with many skaters gone for Edmonton, but wins are needed to improve on Rockford's 19-17-1-1 record.
A better start for the IceHogs has attendance up a bit from last season. Rockford is drawing an average of 4,304 fans a game, just a bit under the team record numbers from the 2010-11 season. Some big weekend games, including the team's annual Pink In The Rink night for breast cancer research Friday, should push that number closer to the 4,360 pace that set the franchise mark.