Chicago Blackhawks

Saad surges on offensive end

DETROIT – Brandon Saad maintains he hasn’t changed a thing lately. A sudden offensive surge for the Blackhawks’ rookie may, however, suggests otherwise.

Saad has taken advantage of playing on the Hawks’ top line, where he has found a rhythm, registering six points in the past six games. Saad was again in the middle of the Hawks’ scoring explosion Sunday when he had three points with two goals and an assist in the Hawks’ 7-1 blowout of the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.

“I feel good now ... all the bounces are going my way now,” Saad said. “I keep feeling better and better every game.”

His teammates have taken notice.

Captain Jonathan Toews said Saad’s skill level and fearlessness aside, the winger’s improvement from game-to-game has been the most impressive part of Saad’s contributions.

“He’s one of those guys that is determined to make a difference every night,” Toews said. “He doesn’t just want to contribute once in a while. He’s out there creating plays and he says, ‘You know what – no one else is doing it – I’ll be the guy.’ You like to have a guy with that attitude and that’s going to bring something to the table every night.”

Switching it up: Coach Joel Quenneville is experimenting with different defensive pairings to explore his options as the Hawks begin the final stretch of the regular season.

He paired Niklas Hjalmarsson with Duncan Keith on Sunday after Hjalmarsson had played with fellow Swede Johnny Oduya all season. Keith had been teamed up with Brent Seabrook, who skated with Nick Leddy against Detroit, while Oduya was moved to the third line and played alongside Michal Rozsival.

Quenneville said the change wasn’t because he’s unhappy with how the pairings were working out. Instead, he’s like looking at how different combinations could play to the Hawks’ benefit moving forward.

“It’s just something we may try to see how it looks just in case,” Quenneville said.

Net worth: Quenneville said he hasn’t considered his goalkeeping situation long term after rotating between Corey Crawford and Ray Emery during the first 35 games of the season.

Crawford made 33 saves Sunday, picking up his 15th win. Emery suffered his first loss in Friday night’s setback to Anaheim after winning 12 straight games.

“We’re very pleased with our goalttending – it’s not an issue, no matter who we put in there,” he said. “The consistency has been in place and it gives us a chance every night. So we’re not looking too far in advance. Both guys are capable of getting that opportunity.”

Ice chips: The Hawks will evaluate injured Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp at today’s morning skate before deciding if they’ll play against Nashville at the United Center. Quenneville admitted that the consistency of the lines has been off without the two starters in the lineup. Despite the Hawks’ seven-goal output, Patrick Kane was held scoreless, snapping an eight-game stretch during which he had registered at least one point a game. ... The Red Wings honored hockey legend Gordie Howe during Sunday’s game. Howe was celebrating his 85th birthday and all Detroit players wore No. 9 sweaters during the pregame skate. ... Jeremy Morin made the most of his first NHL start Sunday, scoring on his first shot, giving the Hawks a 1-0 lead just 2:33 into the first period. Morin was called up from Rockford after registering 49 points in 59 games with the IceHogs.

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