SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The Chicago Blackhawks' experiment with Brandon Saad as the second-line center completed its third day Saturday.
Saad found the results to be more pleasing this time around.
“I felt better today than yesterday,” Saad said. “[Friday’s scrimmage] was a new experience. Talking with the coaches positionally-wise and being able to play today, I felt much better today than I did yesterday.”
Saad, who hadn’t previously played center prior to training camp, has noticed there are a couple of areas that have been especially difficult in making the transition.
“Faceoffs are going to be something I’m going to need to work at, for sure,” Saad said. “But that is something you can work on to improve. Just not getting ahead of the play, coming to get the puck and supporting the wingers, it’s something new and something I’ll have to adjust to.
“With the wing, you’re usually more ahead of the play. You kind of have to slow yourself down and think a little bit more just because it’s a new experience for me. Like I said, it’s getting better each day.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville gave Saad a favorable review Saturday.
“He looks alright,” Quenneville said. “It seems like he has the puck. Play recognition is there. Defensively, I think that continues to be a work in progress. But I like him right now, but we’ll see.”
Saad will get his first taste of center in a preseason game against the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center on Tuesday.
Toews still out: Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews sat out Saturday’s practices and scrimmages due to a lower-body injury. Toews participated in a practice Friday, but he missed the scrimmages. Quenneville said Toews would likely rest again Sunday.
“Toews, [he’s] much better today,” Quenneville said. “He wanted to skate today, but make sure we’re more than ready with him.”
Handzus, Rozsival improving: Blackhawks forward Michal Handzus and defenseman Michal Rozsival participated in two practices Saturday, but they were kept out of the scrimmages. Quenneville said both were progressing.
Hayes impresses: Jimmy Hayes' play caught the eye of Quenneville on Saturday. Hayes, who played in 10 games for the Blackhawks last season, scored a goal and created a number of other scoring chances by utilizing his speed and 6-foot-6, 221-pound frame.
“Jimmy Hayes had an outstanding day,” Quenneville said. “I thought he did yesterday, too. His quickness, his size, you put that together and you have the consistency of that, that’s quite a package. Jimmy’s had some good stretches with us in the past. Consistency is what we’re looking for. He’s pushing for a job here. If he keeps doing what he’s doing now every day, he’s really enhancing his chances.”
Hartman’s first impression: Blackhawks 2013 first-round pick Ryan Hartman has made a good first impression on Quenneville during the training camp. Hartman missed the on-ice portion of the Blackhawks' prospect camp in July because of an injury. He scored a goal in the Red Team’s 3-0 win over the Black Team on Saturday. He is expected to return to the OHL this season.
“I’ve liked him,” Quenneville said. “I think one thing he brings is he’s got a real good feel for the game. This is the first time we’ve had a chance to see him. You hear different things about him. But he’s an effective player as far as play recognition, positionally aware. He sees and makes play, and he knows where he is around the rink.”
Beach contributes: Blackhawks 2008 first-round pick Kyle Beach had a productive day Saturday. He contributed a goal and an assist in the Red Team’s 3-0 win.
Beach has been with the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL for the last three seasons and has yet to appear in the NHL. He was a restricted free agent after last season and signed a one-year deal in July.
“The one thing about him is another guy [that gives us] organizational depth,” Quenneville said. “We still haven’t got him up here yet. But he’s one guy this year he should be pushing himself to be that guy where he gets a chance to play some guys. When you get there, you don’t want to get yourself in a situation go back. We’ll see how his camp today. I thought today was an outstanding day.”