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Saad returns with Blue Jackets to play Blackhawks

by Brian Hedger

BLUE JACKETS (0-5-0) at BLACKHAWKS (2-3-0)


CHICAGO -- The missing link for the Chicago Blackhawks' top line will be at United Center on Saturday, but Brandon Saad will be skating with the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets instead.

Saad, who won the Stanley Cup twice with the Blackhawks, will play in Chicago for the first time since being traded to Columbus in the offseason. He'll receive his 2015 championship ring, which will also be a reminder of what's missing from his former line.

"He's real tough to replace," said Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw, one of five players who have tried to replace Saad at left wing on the top line with Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews. "He's a fast, skilled guy with big, powerful legs and movements, so it's tough to replace a guy like that. But guys are going to step up and do the best they can."

Bryan Bickell, a power forward like Saad, will be the newest player to audition on the top line. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has cycled players through that line and hopes this move clicks.

"We watched [Bickell] have success in the playoffs [playing there]," Quenneville said after Chicago's morning skate. "Let's try to bottle that. Simpler is always better with him. Be up and down, be physical, get to the net, shoot when you can and be tough to play against. Simple as that."

Bickell plans to do that for the Blackhawks, who have lost their past two games by a combined score of 7-1.

"I think [I'll] just do what I did last game," said Bickell, who was moved onto the top line during the Blackhawks' 4-1 loss at the Washington Capitals on Thursday. "I finished off the game in the second and third [periods] just playing my strengths, being up and down, giving [Toews and Hossa] the puck and going to the net. They know where to be and who's on the ice at certain times, and I just need to bring back the old days that made us successful."

Quenneville is also hoping for better chemistry from Chicago's third line.

Rookie Vincent Hinostroza will center that unit after being recalled from Rockford of the American Hockey League on Friday. Teuvo Teravainen will move from center to left wing, and veteran Ryan Garbutt will play on the right side.

Teravainen and Garbutt each were given brief tryouts in the spot Saad vacated, but Quenneville would like them to help the third line now.

"We need that line to be effective in ways, and at least be even in the course of a night," Quenneville said. "I think that line could sustain some momentum in our team game and we want to establish that. We haven't found that type of effort in the first few games here, so let's try to establish that."

Hinostroza, from the Chicago suburb of Bartlett, Ill., is the latest Blackhawks player to make his NHL debut. Backup goalie Scott Darling (Lemont, Ill.) and forward prospect Ryan Hartman (West Dundee, Ill.) did it last season.

"It's so exciting," Hinostroza said. "I've been looking forward to this day since I was 4 or 5, so it's unbelievable. I get to put the jersey on tonight, the Blackhawks jersey. I'm going to take the nerves and turn it into a positive."

Columbus also will have a rookie in the lineup. The Blue Jackets recalled rookie forward Kerby Rychel on Friday; he will replace forward Rene Bourque on the third line.

Goalie Curtis McElhinney will get his first start of the season, as Columbus tries to get its first win.

"We’ve talked about a lot of things," Saad said. "There's a lot of leaders [who] said a lot of things, but I think the biggest thing is staying even keel. Never too high, never too low. It’s a long season, but at the same time we want to nip this in the bud early."

Here are the projected lineups:


Brandon Saad - Ryan Johansen - Nick Foligno

Boone Jenner - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson

Scott Hartnell - William Karlsson - Kerby Rychel

Matt Calvert - Gregory Campbell - David Clarkson

Jack Johnson - David Savard

Fedor Tyutin - Dalton Prout

Cody Goloubef - Ryan Murray

Curtis McElhinney

Sergei Bobrovsky

Injured: Alexander Wennberg (concussion), Josh Anderson (orbital bone fracture), Daniel Zaar (ribs)

Scratched: Kevin Connauton, Rene Bourque, Jared Boll


Bryan Bickell - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Artemi Panarin - Artem Anisimov - Patrick Kane

Teuvo Teravainen - Vincent Hinostroza - Ryan Garbutt

Andrew Desjardins - Marcus Kruger - Andrew Shaw

Duncan Keith - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Trevor Daley - Trevor van Riemsdyk

David Rundblad - Brent Seabrook

Corey Crawford

Scott Darling

Injured: Michal Rozsival (ankle)

Scratched: Viktor Tikhonov, Viktor Svedberg

Status report: It's the first game of the season for Rychel, who was recalled from Lake Erie of the AHL after the Blue Jackets' 6-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday. He had three points in five games with Columbus in 2014-15.

Who's hot: Saad has three goals and four points in the Blue Jackets' first five games. ... Panarin has two goals and five points in the Blackhawks' first five games.

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