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Blue Jackets' Saad has moved on from Blackhawks

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- There's no bitterness for Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Brandon Saad looking ahead to his first game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday at United Center.

Saad won the Stanley Cup for the second time in three seasons with the Blackhawks when they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. He was then traded to Columbus on June 30 as part of a seven-player deal.

Saad thinks he will receive his championship ring this weekend.

"I'll imagine I'll get it throughout the day sometime or after the game," he said. "I'm not sure."

When Saad has it in hand, the memories will not be of how his time with the Blackhawks ended but what he accomplished there.

"It's not bittersweet," Saad said. "Just sweet. You're celebrating getting a championship. Then you're onto hockey."

By all accounts Saad has made a smooth transition to Columbus.

Entering their game Friday against the Toronto Maple Leafs, his three goals lead the Blue Jackets and they've all come on the power play; that matches his previous NHL-best in that category when he had three power-play goals in 78 games in 2013-14.

"He's playing the far side and they've done a good job getting him the puck," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "The thing about goal scorers is they have impeccable timing. They seem to arrive at the right moment.

"A lot of times people say it's lucky but they have a natural feel of where to be and when to arrive, and he's benefitted from that."

However the goals haven't helped much in an 0-4-0 start, the worst ever by the Blue Jackets.

"We've got to get back to work," Saad said. "We were a little high on ourselves. We're figuring out the hard way it's a tough League."

Saad's Stanley Cup Playoffs pedigree gives him a voice in the dressing room even though he's new to the Blue Jackets and doesn't turn 23 until Oct. 27.

Nick Foligno, in his first season as Columbus captain, said he's relied on Saad for advice throughout this early rough stretch.

"Just the little comments he's made, you can tell he comes from a team that you don't get too high, you don't get too low," Foligno said. "It's about going out and executing.

"It's evident he's obviously got a wealth of knowledge at a young age of how to win."

Saad said his teammates' acceptance made it easy to speak out when necessary.

"We've had some talks; not just me but other leaders in the room," he said. "We want to nip this now and get on the winning side of the puck."

Saad has settled into the community as well. He has a home in the Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington and carpools to the arena with neighbors Foligno and defenseman Fedor Tyutin.

"It's been my first time going through the process," Saad said. "The guys have been great making it a pretty seamless transition. But at the same time it's a new team, a new city. It took a little while but now I'm comfortable."

If there was any doubt Saad felt at home it dissipated during training camp when the Blue Jackets spent two days practicing in Strongsville, Ohio, near Cleveland. The players visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Saad played the piano. Soon his teammates joined in, singing Billy Joel's "Piano Man."

"Foligno, being my neighbor, we talked about it," Saad said. "He called me out."

The Blue Jackets will have his back Saturday at Chicago, knowing the importance of the game to Saad.

Scott Hartnell went through a similar experience last season in his first game back at the Philadelphia Flyers.

"The one thing he'll think about, and I thought about too, is the games you played, all the good memories you have in that city," Hartnell said. "Obviously they won two Stanley Cups so there's a lot of unbelievable times that he had."

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