Blackhawks

Blackhawks 'could' recall Bickell after placing Tikhonov on waivers

bryanbickellslide.png

Blackhawks 'could' recall Bickell after placing Tikhonov on waivers

Andrew Shaw has kept in touch with Bryan Bickell on a regular basis since Bickell was sent down to the Rockford IceHogs more than a month ago.

“We text every week, I check in and see how he’s doing and he sees how I’m doing,” Shaw said. “That’s what friends do.”

The two friends may be back in the same locker room soon enough.

The Blackhawks placed Viktor Tikhonov on waivers on Saturday morning and coach Joel Quenneville said Bickell “could” be recalled. Tikhonov, according to generalfanager.com, carries a $1.04 million cap hit; his heading to waivers gives the Blackhawks the salary-cap cushion they would need (at least $950,000) to bring Bickell back.

[MORE HAWKS: Blackhawks' Marko Dano trying to simplify game, improve defensively]

Quenneville wouldn’t say Bickell is absolutely returning, but it’s certainly looking that way. The Blackhawks, be it Quenneville or general manager Stan Bowman, have said that once Bickell starts improving with the IceHogs, he could return. With Rockford Bickell has 14 points in 12 games, including a goal and two assists in the IceHogs’ 4-2 victory over San Antonio on Friday night.

“I haven’t seen him play. Reports are he had a real good start, good game last night, so we’ll see,” Quenneville said following Saturday’s practice. “It was probably tough and challenging knowing he’s been in the NHL for all that stretch. Definitely it gets your attention.”

Bickell did get off to a hot start with the IceHogs. He had at least two three-point games in mid-November, when the question first started arising again: was it time to bring Bickell back? Asked that in Vancouver on Nov. 21, Bowman said the team would, “assess as we go.”

“He’s been doing what we said when we sent him down: ‘You gotta get your confidence back, gotta get your game going.’ He’s playing a lot of minutes, a lot of situations down there,” Bowman said at the time. “The better he plays down there, the better chance he has to come back and help us.”

[NBC SHOP: Buy a Stadium Series jersey]

Teammates were happy to see Bickell’s rebound in Rockford.

“He’s a guy a few years back who was a huge part of our team. He can be that guy, can play pretty much any line on our team from first line to third line and be effective,” Patrick Kane said. “I had some great times with Bicksie over the years, whether it’s on the ice or off the ice. I think he’s a great kid. I think he’s a very good hockey player, too. He can be a guy that can come back in, be re-energized and play well for us the rest of the year.”

BRIEFLY

- Marko Dano was not on the top four lines at Saturday’s practice. Asked what Dano needs to do more of, Quenneville said, “just be more consistent in the puck area both ways, be positionally aware, [have] strength in the puck, controlling it. Production, we’d like to see that as well, but we have six, seven, eight, nine guys in that area."

- Corey Crawford will start vs. the Winnipeg Jets Sunday.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

2-24_blue-jackets_matchup_nhl_chi_blank.jpg
NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

2-23_berube_schmaltz_usat.jpg
USA TODAY

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

Jean-Francois Berube got his first start of the season on Friday night, and it couldn't have gone any better.

The 26-year-old goaltender stopped 42 of 43 shots, a career-high for him in saves, in the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

Since Corey Crawford went down with a head injury last December, the Blackhawks have been searching for consistency in the crease. 

The pair of Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass — who was assigned to Rockford on Feb. 15 and replaced with Berube — have had their ups and downs since then. With the Blackhawks out of the playoff picture, Berube had an opportunity showcase his skills, and he didn't disappoint.

"We were very happy with him," said coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought he did a great job. He was comfortable. I thought he was very patient in his net. Absorbing a lot of pucks with people in front of him was good. Closed some gaps and got … of the top of the paint. Rebound control was effective. Nice response from a long absence."

Berube's last — and only — appearance with the Blackhawks prior to Friday's game came on Dec. 6, relieving Forsberg in a game against the Washington Capitals. He recorded 12 saves of 14 shots. 

When Crawford got injured, Berube was the primary candidate to become the team's backup goaltender. The only problem? He was injured too, so the Blackhawks promoted Glass.

"I didn't want to sit and think about it," Berube said of his injury. "At the same time, it was great for Glasser. He was one of those guys that probably deserved it earlier in his career and he finally got his chance. Sometimes you need a guy to go down to have your chance. So I was mostly happy for him.

On Friday night, he got his chance.

"You always want to have a good impression for your first game," Berube said. "I know what I can do at this level, so it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to play and showing people what I can do."

Celebrating his 22nd birthday, Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. Artem Anisimov scored an empty-netter.

"It's a lot more fun coming to the rink when you're winning, enjoying each other, playing well as a team," Schmaltz said of the Blackhawks' win, which have now won three of their last four games. "Hopefully we can keep that good energy and bring it to the rink every day, and build off of that.

"You never know where this team can go, a lot of great players, lots of guys that have had a lot of success. Hopefully we can continue to put together solid efforts."