Brandon Pirri finally gets his wish to play with the Chicago Blackhawks in Saturday night’s contest against the winless Buffalo Sabres in the Windy City. He has been vying for the spot for some time now and barely missed out on the roster spot just before the season began. While teammate Jeremy Morin was more vocal about it, Pirri also voiced his frustration about not making the team for the season opener to ESPN’s Scott Powers earlier this week.
“I just want to show well,” said Pirri to Powers Wednesday. “You can’t control where you are.”
No you can’t, but Quenneville is giving the 22-year-old forward a shot with center Michael Handzus out against the Sabres at the United Center. Pirri certainly won’t squander the opportunity to play in the NHL, especially when the Hawks’ season did not get off to the start they were hoping it would.
Just three games into the regular season, the Hawks saw two late-game collapses that led to a shootout and regulation loss. Chicago barely hung on Friday night against the Islanders in a late-game push that made Hawks fans everywhere a nervous wreck. As concerning as this is for the team, Pirri could cash in on the opportunity.
His ideal spot would be the second line, but he is not expected to take over between Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. He is more likely to play on the third or fourth line with Kruger centering the second line. And with Quenneville juggling lines (including dropping Bickell from the first to third line) Pirri can make a case for him to stay on the team for a decent stretch of time. He lead the AHL in scoring last season with 75 points and has recorded three assists in as many games in Rockford thus far this season. He should play well tonight in an effort to show he’s made of the stuff the NHL requires.
If Pirri can make a mark tonight (keep a close eye on those faceoff wins and losses) then he could boot Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger or Joakim Nordstrom back to Rockford. Nordstrom showed that he can compete at the NHL level so his roster spot seems to be safe for now (at least the next week or so). Shaw and Kruger have established themselves as NHL-level contenders and helped the Hawks win their second Stanley Cup last season. But Shaw has no points and is winning only 39 percent of his faceoffs on the season, compared to Kruger who has an assist and is winning just over 45 percent of his faceoffs after three games. It’s early, but these two should be taking a serious look at how well Pirri plays tonight because it could be bad news for them.
The Blackhawks square off against the 0 – 4 – 1 Buffalo Sabres at the United Center at 7 p.m. Saturday. If Pirri can help lift the Hawks out of its late-game, panic-inducing style of play, he could definitely be here to stay.