Blackhawks: Bryan Bickell finding his game after 'reality check'


Blackhawks: Bryan Bickell finding his game after 'reality check'

Bryan Bickell returned to the Blackhawks with a bang – and a big hit.

His collision with former teammate Dustin Byfuglien just over a week ago was a welcome sight for the Blackhawks, who needed that physical element back in their game. It was also a welcome delivery for Bickell, who, back in the Blackhawks fold, knows he needs to bring his best game every night.

“I think every game is like the last game,” Bickell said. “The reality check was going down there and doing that and coming back up to fight my way in.”

Bickell just about had his first goal of the season on Sunday night, but it ended up being an assist when Dennis Rasmussen pushed over the line in the Blackhawks’ 4-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Still, it looks like he’s finding a good level with Shaw and Rasmussen, who Bickell also played with during his Rockford time.

For Bickell, it’s about playing at the right level every night.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“Me, Shaw and Ras aren’t giving up much defensively and getting some offensive looks,” he said. “Personally I think I’ve been doing what they’ve asked me: keeping it simple, straight lines and finishing checks.”

Coach Joel Quenneville said, “Bicks has been fine.”

“There’s been a presence there. I think he’s progressed in his game as well but the simpler he keeps it the more efficient and effective he can be,” Quenneville continued. “We notice him in the lineup just being a presence along the boards and in the puck area.”

The Blackhawks missed Bickell during his time in Rockford. They knew their teammate was struggling but also knew what he was capable of, given his part in previous Stanley Cup runs.

“Right from the start he brought some energy. It was just nice having him back in the room, regardless of what he can bring on the ice,” Jonathan Toews said. “It’s not fun to have gone through what he’s gone through, especially with what he’s accomplished, what he’s done for our team the last number of years. But he sucked it up, came back and he’s ready to work and to play well, and we’ve seen that so far.”

[MORE: Why Modano has always been a big fan of Kane]

What happens if the worst-case scenario looms again? If Bickell starts struggling again and the Blackhawks choose to give him the ultimate wake-up call again, Bickell would have to go through waivers again. Here’s Article 13.5 for Waiver Expiration:

The rights granted under this Article to Loan a Player(s) who is otherwise required to clear Regular Waivers to a minor league club expire for any Player(s) who, after clearing Regular Waivers:

(i) is not Loaned to a minor league club, or is Recalled from a minor league club (except on emergency Recall) and remains on an NHL roster for thirty (30) days (cumulative) or plays ten (10) NHL Games (cumulative).

Bickell took advantage of his time in Rockford and he’s starting to find his game and line chemistry here. He knows there is no room for off nights.

“I want to fight every game like it’s my last, as long as possible,” Bickell said. “Keeping my physicality every game is crucial for this team and I need to bring it.”

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?