Blackhawks

Frolik, Bickell need rebound seasons

980555.png

Frolik, Bickell need rebound seasons

Bryan Bickell and Michael Froliks respective European hockey teams were only about 180 miles apart. Bickell played for HC Znojmo in the Austrian League and Frolik for Pirati Chomutov of the Czech Extraliga, just minutes from his offseason home.
Now back in Chicago and preparing for this upcoming 48-game season, their individual goals are about as close as their overseas squads.
Both Bickell and Frolik are coming off frustrating and disappointing seasons with the Blackhawks. Both enjoyed their time playing in Europe and now hope that work there boosts them toward better performances in Blackhawks uniforms.
I wasnt very good last year and I know I can be better, said Frolik, who had 13 goals and 10 assists in 29 games for Chomutov. I worked this summer, played some games in the Czech Republic; Im in good shape but I think I can prove I can be better than last year.
Frolik came to Chicago after tallying two consecutive 21-goal seasons for the Florida Panthers. He hasnt scored 21 goals in the past three seasons combined. Frolik admitted last season that he was pressing, squeezing the stick in frustration and reiterated that again on Friday.
The more you want to score the more it kind of goes against you. I just have to try to forget that and just play the game and try to be relaxed, said Frolik, who added he played in every situation for Chomutov. I just want to play like the first two years (in Florida), and even better.
Bickell is in the same boat, although hes also in the final year of his current contract. Hes coming off a tough 2011-12 during which he was an on againoff again healthy scratch down the regular-season stretch. Bickell was more of a top-line player for Znojmo, for which he tallied nine goals and 18 assists in 28 games.
My first year was a good year and last year was a speed bump, Bickell said. Being overseas and coming into the season where I am now, I feel good. I need to bring it every game, no shifts, no days off, whether its talking to the doc or our leaders to help me through that inconsistency in my game.
Bickell said his Austrian League play was beneficial for several reasons, especially his skating. The bruising forward played in a league that featured more skill than physical play, but he knows that hell need to use his body more again over here to succeed.
When (coach Joel Quenneville) puts me on the power play or whenever, Im there to raise some havoc on the ice. I need to work on screens and tips, Bickell said. This could be a big year for me.
Both Frolik and Bickell are looking to have big years. They got plenty out of their European play. That work needs to come through here with the Blackhawks immediately.
Its an important year for me and the team, Bickell said. We need to have a good start, and so do I.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 4-2 win over Coyotes: Puck don't lie

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 4-2 win over Coyotes: Puck don't lie

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night:
 
1. Surviving a crazy first period.

The Blackhawks committed four penalties in the opening frame within a 2:18 span, and escaped unscathed from it despite a pair of 5-on-3 opportunities for the Coyotes.

Of course, the only goal allowed in the period came from a fluke deflection off Jordan Oesterle's stick and slipped underneath Corey Crawford's five-hole.

Joel Quenneville likes to say the team that takes advantage of their 5-on-3 opportunities has a pretty good chance to win the game. It applied in this case, with the Blackhawks coming out victorious after surviving that stretch.

2. Power play comes alive early.

The Blackhawks got off on the right foot in an area that has been an issue for them this season, capitalizing on their first power play of the game 24 seconds into it when Richard Panik redirected a Jonathan Toews shot that tricked past Louis Domingue.

Good thing too, because it was the only man advantage they'd get. Well, excluding the power play they received with 17 seconds left in regulation when the game was already decided. 
 
3. Another controversial review in Arizona.

What's with it with controversial reviews in Arizona and the Blackhawks being on the wrong end of the call?

The Blackhawks appeared to have taken a 3-1 lead when Tommy Wingels converted on a penalty shot, but it was overturned after officials reviewed it and determined the Coyotes netminder got a stick on Wingels' initial shot. Replays didn't exactly show conclusive evidence, but the NHL released a statement proving otherwise:

Video review determined that Wingels shot the puck into the net after Arizona goaltender Louis Domingue made contact with the puck. According to Rule 24.2, "No goal can be scored on a rebound of any kind."

Shortly after, the Coyotes scored in the final minutes of the period to even up the score at 2-2 in a big turn of events at the time.
 
4. ... But puck don't lie.

The overturned penalty shot didn't matter in the end though, because the Blackhawks came away with the victory and Wingels ended up getting his first goal after all on an empty netter that iced the game.

It was Wingels' first goal as a member of his hometown team, and it was well deserved for a guy who was part of the fourth line that turned in arguably their best performance of the season.
 
5. Lance Bouma rewarded with game-winning goal.

Speaking of which, it was fitting that Bouma scored the game winner with 4:24 left in the third period because that trio of Bouma, Wingels and John Hayden was around the net for the majority of the night.

They combined for two goals and two assists, had eight attempts shot attempts (five on goal), eight of the team's 16 hits and four blocked shots.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

1020_hawks_yotes.jpg

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.