The Columbus Dispatch

Tortorella has Saad sit after bench blowup

- By Tom Reed @treed1919

PITTSBURGH — As his teammates were filing off the ice, Brandon Saad already was showered and dressed in street clothes, prepared to attack an off day in his hometown on Thursday.

His final obligation before heading out the door was meeting with media members to discuss another kind of early exit.

In his first playoff game as a Blue Jacket, Saad was benched in the third period of a 3- 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night in PPG Paints Arena. The local Pittsburgh telecast showed coach John Tortorella screaming at Saad after a turnover.

The team’s thirdleadi­ng scorer sat for the final 14: 17 with his team trailing by three goals.

“I’m not quite sure — heat of the moment,” Saad said when asked whether the turnover or other factors contribute­d to his benching and Tortorella’s eruption. “You will have to ask him about that. For me, it’s when I do get out there, do my best and try to help the team win.”

The decision marked the latest twist in what has been an interestin­g two- year relationsh­ip between a fiery coach and a Pittsburgh kid with California chill.

Tortorella chose his words carefully when asked why he ended Saad’s night prematurel­y after the winger might have been the Blue Jackets’ best forward in the first period.

Saad’s performanc­e dipped after the opening 20 minutes, however, and he was removed from the top line, featuring Nick Foligno and Alexander Wennberg, early in the third period.

“I thought other guys were going at certain times,” Tortorella said.

“Saader needs to be a big part of this. I thought that line in the first period, it was their best period. It deteriorat­ed from there. I was going with who I thought was going at that particular time in the third period.”

The speedy and highly skilled Saad has scored 55 goals in his first two seasons with the Blue Jackets after signing a six- year, $ 36 million contract extension.

But his coach, who has built a reputation on making good players better through conflict and friction, still demands more from Saad, especially at this time of year.

The winger has a history of excelling in the postseason, winning two Stanley Cups with Chicago while learning from Blackhawks leaders Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa.

“He needs to be that guy for us,” Tortorella said Wednesday morning.

“Not lie in the weeds, but he needs to be that guy for us with some youth on the team.”

Saad, 24, said Wednesday that he hasn’t been asked by many young Blue Jackets about his playoff experience­s and prefers to lead by example.

At Thursday’s practice, Saad was reunited with Wennberg and Foligno. After being first off the ice, Saad was asked whether he planned to change his approach for Friday’s game.

“No,” he said. “I felt pretty good ( Wednesday) night and I’ll prepare as I always prepare. … I think the whole team, not just our line, was flying in the first ( period). We had some chances, pucks lying in the crease, things like that. But we fell short, obviously, on scoring, and that hurt us.”

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