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Thursday, June 20

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Blackhawks Mon Oct 28 2013

Pirri Gets Line Promotion With Handzuš Ailing

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.png It only was a matter of time before head coach Joel Quenneville made the move, but tonight Brandon Pirri will get a chance to skate for the Blackhawks as the team's second-line center in Minnesota. The Blackhawks are coming off a 5-3 loss Saturday night at home against the Wild, and within that loss came an upper-body injury to Handzuš that will have him watching from the sidelines tonight and more than likely tomorrow night back at home against Ottawa.

According to Comcast SportsNet's Tracey Myers (@TramyersCSN), the morning skate lines at the Xcel Energy Center were paired up as Sharp-Toews-Hossa; Saad-Pirri-Kane; Bickell-Shaw-Morin; Bollig-Kruger-Smith/Mills. Usually, the morning lines are an early indication as to how the lines will look later in the evening. With that said, Pirri will get his first look at second-line center for the Blackhawks and will look to make the most of the situation.

With all due respect to Handzuš, who certainly played a key role as the team's second-line center during last season's playoff run to the Cup, it was time to make the move in dropping him down and bringing someone up in his stead. Kane and Saad were much too fast for the 36-year-old vet, which prevented the younger skaters from flying past the defense. It's part of the reason Patrick Kane is sporting a minus-9 on the second line, which in itself is completely absurd.

Over the last two games on the fourth line, Pirri has two goals and three points, which has caught Quenneville's eye and could prove to be as fruitful for the 22-year-old as Saad found to be the case when he was placed on the top line last season with Toews and Hossa.

"In a short amount of ice time in a couple of games, he's been a real nice fit for us," Quenneville said of Pirri. And although adulation from your head coach might be all the confidence you'd need to stay motivated, Pirri still considers the promotion an audition, especially with all the depth on the roster.

If it's one thing Pirri will need to watch while anchoring this line, it's his defense. While Kane is lightning quick on offense, he's not one for stopping a developing play on the other end of the ice (another reason for the minus-9). Saad plays just fine on the back half of the rink, but Pirri will need to do all he can to help him out -- and it starts tonight against Minnesota's second line of Dany Heatley-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville (plus-12 total).

As far as what to do with Handzuš upon his return remains to be seen. Resting the vet during the autumnal months of the schedule seems like a good idea -- injured or not. It's a big move for Pirri, and a fit that could become Tailor-made throughout the rest of the season, especially if his faceoff-win consistency and speed and accuracy produce big numbers for the potentially-lethal line.

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