Blackhawks

Bickell fired up after being benched

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Bickell fired up after being benched

COLUMBUS, Ohio A healthy scratch. No player enjoys that status come game time. Bryan Bickell is no exception.

Bickell was scratched for the Blackhawks 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night, a move that broke up the checking line of he, Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik that had been together dating back to last spring.

The left wing had a tough go at training camp but was playing that gritty, physical game the Blackhawks want from him in early season games. But hes struggled as of late and on Tuesday he was out of the lineup.

It was a tough pill to swallow for Bickell, but hes using it for motivation.

I know the reasons why (I was scratched), said Bickell, who was back on the reworked checking line with Marcus Kruger and Frolik on Wednesday. But it definitely gets me fired up for the next game to prove that I belong in the lineup and he Joel Quenneville has no reason to take me out.

Bickell said hell remember those early games when he gets back into the lineup. And hell try to relax.

I think Ive been thinking too much and gripping the stick too tight, he said. Its just keeping it simple. Its just (about) playing my game, being physical and being in the corners. Thats what I needed to do to improve my game.

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What adjustments Blackhawks could make against Oilers for Game 3

What adjustments Blackhawks could make against Oilers for Game 3

The Blackhawks set the tone in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers by dominating at even strength and potting three power-play goals against the second-ranked penalty kill.

The Edmonton Oilers flipped the script and made the correct adjustments in Game 2, scoring 19 seconds into the game and never giving up control of it.

It's the Blackhawks' turn to counter in Game 3.

As the home team for Games 3 and 4, head coach Jeremy Colliton and his staff will have the luxury of last line change. That means the Blackhawks can decide which trio goes up against Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, who netted a hat trick on Monday.

But before getting into lineup adjustments, the first emphasis for the Blackhawks should be scoring the first goal. Well, it always should be.

"I'm pretty sure it's important to score the first goal no matter what, who you're playing," Duncan Keith said after practice on Tuesday. "That would help to try and win the game." 

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In Game 1, the Blackhawks fell behind 1-0 just 2:34 into the opening frame. In Game 2, they trailed 2-0 in the first 4:05. 

Only two teams had more wins during the regular season when scoring first than the Oilers (29). On the contrary, the Oilers had the sixth-worst points percentage (.250) when giving up the first goal. 

Scoring first is always crucial, but it feels even more significant against a high-powered offense like the Oilers.

"It’s two games in a row where we have to come from behind," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "It’s not a position we want to be in. I think we had a good start in Game 1, they score on the power play. Big difference from our start in Game 2.

"From our perspective we want to do the right things right from the puck drop. Sometimes a bounce goes for or against you but more so it’s how we perform shift to shift that gives us a chance to win the game. Hopefully results in the first goal, but if it doesn’t, we have a high level of play we’ve got to believe we’ll come back."

The Blackhawks were without Drake Caggiula in Game 2 after an illegal check to the head on Oilers forward Tyler Ennis in Game 1 resulted in a one-game suspension. John Quenneville took his spot in the lineup, but the Blackhawks were ultimately forced to double-shift Patrick Kane throughout the course of the game after falling behind quickly, which disrupted the line flow.

The Blackhawks will likely go back to their Game 1 rotation, and they should, even though things clicked immediately when Kane was put on a line with Kirby Dach and Alex DeBrincat. But it will be interesting to see how Colliton matches his group against the Oilers.

In Game 1, Dave Tippett and his staff tried exploiting the Blackhawks' fourth line of Ryan Carpenter, David Kampf and Matthew Highmore by making them defend McDavid, who was a non-factor at even strength. Leon Draisaitl's line, mainly, went up against the Blackhawks' third line of Caggiula, Dach and DeBrincat.

Will the Blackhawks try freeing up Kane and Jonathan Toews offensively by using the same tactic or does it make more sense to match the first two lines against Edmonton’s top guns as much as possible? There's a case to be made for both sides.

Exactly one week before the NHL put its season on pause, the Blackhawks played the Oilers at the United Center and beat them 4-3. Toews' line drew the McDavid matchup and Kane's line went up against Draisaitl, so perhaps we could see that again, at least to start.

It’s a game of chess, and the Blackhawks must use having the last move to their advantage.

When Mario Lemieux and Michael J. Fox owned part of Russian hockey team

When Mario Lemieux and Michael J. Fox owned part of Russian hockey team

In the early 90s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, a group of investors including two owners of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Mario Lemieux and Michael J. Fox took ownership of 50 percent of the then struggling Russian national hockey team.

"You can't really call it owning because it's the Russian government, but we basically stepped in and took over the financial interests of the central Red Army hockey team in Moscow, in Russia," Fox said on CNN's "Larry King Live" during a clip shown in director Gabe Polsky's new documentary, "Red Penguins".

"Red Penguins" is a more-than-worthy follow up to Polsky's well-received "Red Army" released in 2014.

His latest doc zeroes in on what happens when Pittsburgh Penguins owners Howard Baldwin and Tom Ruta, along with their other investors, try to save the once proud hockey club that had a previous relationship with the Soviet armed forces and name it the Russian Penguins.

"At the beginning, we didn't understand the risk. We didn't understand what the country was like and what have you," Ruta says early in the film. As the movie plays out, that statement becomes more and more true.

Marketing wiz Steven Warshaw, hired by Baldwin and Ruta and sent to Moscow, achieves success in coming up with promotions such as free beer nights to fill the Russian Penguins' arena. The success from the Americans' involvement in the team also attracted Disney's interest according to Warshaw.

Things go south when the Russian mafia gets involved. Not even Warshaw's comic relief in the film softens the destruction and violence done by the criminal organization as the partnership falls apart.

"Red Penguins" is available Tuesday on iTunes, Amazon, On Demand and all other video platforms.

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