Blackhawks

Emotional Bryan Bickell retires with Blackhawks: 'I didn't want it any other way'

Emotional Bryan Bickell retires with Blackhawks: 'I didn't want it any other way'

Bryan Bickell got the call from the Blackhawks not long after he played his final game against the Philadelphia Flyers, a call offering him the opportunity to retire with the team with which he won three Stanley Cups.

“I didn’t want it any other way,” Bickell said.

Bickell’s retirement talk on Wednesday was reminiscent of so many of the media interviews he gave: sometimes funny, sometimes emotional and completely honest. The former Blackhawks forward, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis nearly a year ago, fought back tears as he talked of his time with the team, ending everything here and his health — which is improving.

“Every day, every month is getting better,” Bickell said. “There are good days and bad days but there’s more good than bad. Things are going the right way. The treatments and technology they come out with every month, every year, it’s outstanding. Hopefully one day we find a cure and I hope we find help to do that.”

Bickell will keep being active in the fight against MS — “I want to tell my story, what I went through, just inspire other people to get diagnosed and the experience with their families.” As for hockey, maybe he’ll get involved with that again in the future.

“I want to get back into hockey,” he said. “I have two young girls, 3 and 1, and watching them grow is the first thing I want to do and see where it goes from there. Work with kids and things like that would be a goal for me and I’m looking forward to it.”

Bickell’s playing career ended way too prematurely. It ended as well as it could have, with Bickell fighting back to play in the Carolina Hurricanes’ final few regular-season games last spring and him scoring a shootout goal — “my shooting percentage is 50 percent, which is nice,” he said to laughs. When the news came down that he would retire with the Blackhawks he was inundated with messages. Bickell gave the Blackhawks his best; his retiring with them was a fitting, “thank you.”

“It was nice to see the respect,” Bickell said. “I know the news came out last night [on my retiring here] and seeing all the texts, the media and just all the respect for me and the team has built in the city, it’s an honor to be part of it. To finish here, it’s awesome.”

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes Saturday night on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Niklas Hjalmarsson's new home.

Brace yourselves, Chicago. It's going to be a weird site seeing Hjalmarsson in a different sweater other than the Blackhawks, where he spent his first 10 NHL seasons and won three Stanley Cups.

Now he serves as an alternate captain and blue-line anchor for the Coyotes, who are the only team still seeking its first win of the season. You know they'll be hungry to snap that skid, especially when there's extra motivation for a player on their team facing a bunch of old friends.

2. Connor Murphy returns to Arizona, too.

The man Hjalmarsson was traded for will also be returning to a place he called home for four years. Murphy's role with the Coyotes increased every year before he was dealt to the Blackhawks as part of a shake-up for both teams, so you know he's going to play with something to prove.

Murphy is a physical defenseman, and has laid several notable big hits this season. His former teammates surely know it, and may want to keep their heads up.

3. Patrick Kane 2.0?

Ever since he was drafted with the No. 7 overall pick in 2016, Clayton Keller has drawn comparisons to Kane. They're both undersized, offensive playmakers, possess supreme stick-handling abilities and are American-born players.

Keller got a brief taste of NHL action last year, but he's secured a full-time spot with the Coyotes this season and has been arguably their best player so far.

The 19-year-old forward paces all rookies with five goals and ranks second with seven points, and leads the Coyotes in both categories. Expect to see his name as a finalist for the Calder Trophy for the league's top rookie at the end of the season.

Anton Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they need

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USA TODAY

Anton Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they need

Anton Forsberg had just finished an extended morning skate Wednesday morning in St. Louis. The backup goaltender had played in one regular-season game for the Blackhawks to that point, so getting in extra work to stay sharp was helpful.

“I try to keep my focus in practice and work extra every day, get a few extra shots in practice with the extra guys who are out there, work with Jimmy and try to keep my game shape,” Forsberg said, referring to Blackhawks goaltending coach Jimmy Waite.

Whatever Forsberg’s working on in practice and skates seems to be working, because in two games with the Blackhawks he’s looked sharp. Forsberg probably deserved a victory on Thursday night when he stopped 40 shots in the Blackhawks’ 2-1 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers. It’s the backup life to wait and see when that next start will come, but Forsberg has been ready.

“For sure I felt more comfortable today, more used to the speed,” he said following Thursday’s game. “I felt I read the game better, felt I had more time moving around. It’s tough, again, to lose in overtime. Obviously I wanted to win and it’s frustrating.”

Frustrating for sure, but Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they want and need: a dependable backup that gives them a chance to win. The two goals Forsberg gave up on Thursday weren’t softies, either — Patrick Maroon’s goal off a ridiculous Connor McDavid pass and Mark Letestu’s over game-winner that deflected off Brent Seabrook’s stick.

“He kept us in a tight game like he did in Toronto, got us to overtime. I kind of feel bad we didn’t get him a win in either of those,” Ryan Hartman said. “He played well both of those games. It’s nice to have a guy on the back end like that.”

Forsberg has blended in well with the Blackhawks. It helps that he already knew two of them, Brandon Saad and Artem Anisimov, his former teammates in Columbus. He and Corey Crawford already have a good rapport. Same goes for he and Waite, and Forsberg has soaked up any information they’ve given him.

“I feel like both him and Corey teach me a lot. We talk about different situations, especially all the reads,” Forsberg said. “I get to know how (Crawford) thinks the game. He’s been around a long time and has been doing well, so it’s interesting every day to hear what he has to say. Even Jimmy’s been around same thing there, discussing my game, what we want to improve, what we want to do different, what to keep the same and go from there.”

The extra work in practices and skates appears to be working as Forsberg has done a lot right in just his first two games, which were 10 days apart. The Blackhawks have had a good run of backup goaltenders; two games is a small sample size but Forsberg could be the latest reliable backup.