Instead of practicing for the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center or Johnny’s IceHouse West on Madison Street in Chicago, Morin and Pirri practiced for the Rockford IceHogs at Riverview Ice House on Madison Street in Rockford, Ill.
Morin and Pirri, both forwards, entered training camp last month with high hopes of sticking with the Blackhawks this season, but both were among Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville’s final roster cuts and were sent back to the IceHogs of the AHL.
Both players said Wednesday they were still optimistic about playing in the NHL, but neither hid their disappointment about not making the Blackhawks out of camp.
“Obviously, it’s very disappointing, but you got to come down here and you got to have a good attitude,” said 22-year-old Morin, who has one goal in two games for the IceHogs this season. “You can’t be pouting. It can only lead to bad things. You can’t play your best when you’re moping or you’re not in a good mindset. You got to come down here, just work and keep plugging away and keep proving you can play in the NHL.”
Pirri also remained motivated, but he also sounded as if he wasn’t confident his NHL future was with the Blackhawks.
“You can’t control where you are,” 22-year-old Pirri said of playing with the IceHogs. “You just have to do the best with the situation you have. Obviously getting into some games and getting back into a routine, that helps a lot. I just want to show well. Hopefully, I get that opportunity with the Blackhawks or somewhere else.
“There’s not really much time to sulk. I think we played a couple days after we got sent down. You know what. It’s not even a matter of being ready for that next call-up. It’s about coming in and helping this team win and showing well for yourself. You know there’s scouts at every game for every team. You want it to work out here, but when you get sent down, you got to look out for the team and yourself and do the best you can with the situation.”
Pirri was asked if he thought he had a better NHL opportunity somewhere else other than Chicago.
“Again, that’s not up to me,” said Pirri, who led the AHL in points last season. “I just got to be ready to do my job down here, be a good teammate and help the team win and things are going to play out as they may.”
Pirri dealt with a frustrating training camp due to an injury that forced him to miss practices and exhibition games. He thought that impacted Quenneville’s decision.
“You know getting hurt and missing a little time there didn’t help things,” Pirri said. “I can’t control what they do. My dream is to play in the NHL. That’s what I’m working towards.”
Morin was pleased with his training camp, but he thought he could do even more to impress the Blackhawks.
“I feel they gave me a decent shot,” Morin said. “I think that I was happy with the way I played. Things didn’t work out the way I wanted them to, but at the end of the day, it’s not the end of the world. I think I just have to keep working down here and hopefully get a call-up and again make the most out of the opportunity.”
IceHogs coach Ted Dent understood Morin’s and Pirri’s disappointment when they returned to Rockford and gave them some space early on. He’s liked the way they have responded at the start of the season.
“It’s hard, the first week or two for sure,” Dent said. “But they’ve been good. Their attitudes have been good. They had a pretty good weekend in Texas and worked hard. That’s all I’m looking for -- the work ethic and the compete. Everything else will take care of itself.”
Morin said he and Pirri haven’t discussed being sent down, but they understand what each other is feeling.
“We’re not talking about it, but we’ve both been here four years, and we came in together,” Morin said. “We know what each other is going through. I think you just have to not think about it and come here and play hard and try to produce.”