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'Coach's decision' to scratch Blackhawks' Saad

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- Joel Quenneville did not mince too many words Sunday when asked why he decided to make 21-year old forward Brandon Saad a healthy scratch against the St. Louis Blues.

"Coach's decision," he said following a 4-2 victory at United Center. "We like tough decisions and we welcome them. This wasn't a tough one, so we're looking for tougher ones as we go along here. When we put the lineup together, we want consistency and to play the right way. That's what we're looking for."

Brandon Saad
Left Wing - CHI
GOALS: 19 | ASST: 26 | PTS: 45
SOG: 152 | +/-: 23
Saad, who's been on the second line at left wing, took part in the pregame warm-up, but did not participate in line rushes. That was the first sign that he might be in street clothes during the game.

Veteran forward Michal Handzus returned to the lineup after missing two games and centered the second line with Kris Versteeg at left wing and Ben Smith on the right side. Saad, who's only missed three other games, wasn't available after the game.

Saad has 19 goals and 26 assists with a plus-23 rating, but has struggled since missing three games in March with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Counting two games prior to his injury stint, Saad has just one assist and a minus-6 rating in his past nine games.

Quenneville expects to play Saad in Chicago's next game, which is the home finale Wednesday against the Montreal Canadiens.

"Playing the right way is something we reinforce, and I don't think he ever got one of those shifts or games where he was just rolling and comfortable with the puck and playing with the pace we're used to seeing," Quenneville said. "But we expect him to be a big piece of our team here, and we need him to be back playing and expect him to be back in the next game and playing his game."

As for his decision to sit the talented two-way forward in a big game against the rival Blues, Quenneville didn't second-guess himself afterward. Despite already missing top forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, not to mention defenseman Johnny Oduya, the Blackhawks dominated much of the game against St. Louis with a gritty effort.

"I think sometimes you make decisions ... sometimes they're not popular, sometimes you do different things prior to getting to this stage," Quenneville said. "We've still got three games to go and we're still going to be banking on him being a big part of it."

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