CHICAGO – Brandon Pirri will get a look for the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night against the winless Buffalo Sabres at United Center, but it might be another brief stay in the League for the 22-year old playmaking center.
Pirri will replace veteran Michal Handzus and likely center the fourth line against the Sabres, giving Handzus a night off on the last half of a back-to-back set this weekend. Pirri was recalled from Rockford of the American Hockey League following Chicago’s 3-2 win at home against the New York Islanders. Jimmy Hayes was sent down to clear a spot.
“We felt Jimmy would play more down there and at the same time Brandon is a fit at center ice for us with Handzus not playing tonight,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ll give him a rest in back-to-back games. That was some of the thought process. We’ll see, he’s here now and hopefully he takes advantage of it.”
Even since he led the AHL in points last season, the 22-year old Pirri has been labeled by some as the answer to Chicago’s lack of a true second-line center. It just hasn’t quite worked out that way, with Pirri putting up two assists in his seven games of NHL experience thus far in his career.
Pirri missed about a week of training camp with a lower-body injury and didn’t make the final roster cut.
“I missed a lot of the camp and they didn’t get to see a lot of me, so it was just a matter of waiting and hoping to get an opportunity down the road somewhere, and the opportunity came,” said Pirri, who was one of the IceHogs’ most productive offensive players in the first three games. “You need to stay within yourself, but at the same time you’ve got to do what brought you here. I think I’m just a lot more mature [now], knowing it’s a three-zone game – and that’s for any NHL [player]. You’ve got to be able to play in all three zones and it’s something we’ve worked on and I’m a lot better at.”