Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Bickell searching for right response to biggest wake-up call

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Blackhawks: Bickell searching for right response to biggest wake-up call

It was two weeks ago when Bryan Bickell got the jolt of his career.

Several Canadian outlets reported the league’s daily waivers and Bickell was on them. At first glance, it seemed like the Blackhawks were dangling their forward to the rest of the NHL, and if he wasn’t picked up he was headed to the Rockford IceHogs.

Instead, it ended up being the biggest wake-up call Bickell’s ever received in all this time with the Blackhawks. Two weeks later, Bickell is still trying to bring the right response to that call.

Bickell is still looking for his first point of the 2015-16 season and he’s still looking to make a consistent impact. But coach Joel Quenneville liked Bickell’s game against the Washington Capitals on Thursday, so much so that Bickell was the latest left wing elevated to the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.

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Now the way this left-wing audition on the top line has gone so far this season, the guy who ended the night there the previous game usually started there the next game. If that’s the case, look for Bickell to be with Toews and Hossa again — at least to start — against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night.

Perhaps that really gets Bickell going. Prior to that move, Quenneville said Bickell’s been fine in early games.

“The simpler he keeps it, the better and more effective he is,” Quenneville said. “I think we’ve noticed him in doing what we were looking for him to do. He doesn’t have to be flashy; just keep it up and down, get your chances, finish checks. That’s what we’re looking for.”

Bickell agreed.

“It’s just keeping it simple, going up and down my wing, not to have so many mistakes” Bickell said recently. “Just keep it more simple and straight up and down and finishing checks when they’re there. And keeping the puck out of the back of the net is the biggest thing. I don’t want opportunities against.”

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As far as opportunities for, Bickell has had them, mainly on the third line with Teuvo Teravainen at center. If he ends up playing with Teravainen again, Bickell said he has to be prepared for the young Finn’s quick passes.

“You have to be ready. He’s sneaky. It seems like he’s looking over here, but no he’s really looking over there,” Bickell said. “He keeps you on your toes I just have to be ready.”

If he’s with Toews and Hossa on Saturday, he has to be ready to try and stay there, bring some stability to that line and his own game.

BRIEFLY

— The Blackhawks swapped forwards with Rockford on Friday afternoon, recalling Vincent Hinostroza from there while sending fellow forward Kyle Baun to the IceHogs. Baun played in two games, including Thursday night’s game in Washington, D.C., with the Blackhawks. Whether or not Hinostroza, a native of Bartlett, is in Saturday’s lineup is unknown.

— Defenseman Michal Rozsival (ankle) could either skate with the Blackhawks on Saturday morning or at their next practice, according to Quenneville. Rozsival still won’t play for some time; he was placed on long-term injured reserve on Oct. 6, which means he has to be out 10 games and 24 days.

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

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AP

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

Brandon Saad played a majority of last season on the first line, started this season on the second to change things up, got demoted to the fourth by the fifth game, and could find himself out of the lineup in the sixth.

Before the Blackhawks hit the ice for practice on Monday, the 25-year-old winger found a white jersey hanging in his stall. That's usually reserved for players who are injured — Andreas Martinsen (back) was the only other player wearing one — or players who are on the outside looking in, which appears to be Saad right now considering he was not part of the four-line rotation.

"I don't think anyone wants to be wearing white around here," he said. "But it is what it is and there's nothing you can do but keep trying to improve. It's their job to make the call to put the best team out there to win hockey games."

Known for being even-keeled through the ups and downs, Saad expressed disappointment about the possibility of being a healthy scratch on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. He didn't exactly show that emotion following his demotion to the fourth line, perhaps out of respect to the players he was playing with by noting how it brings balance.

But he did on Monday, and it was the first time we've really seen some sort of emotion out of him.

"Everyone makes mistakes and things aren't always going to go your way but to be out of the lineup, a little surprised today," Saad said. "But it is what it is. ... No one wants to be out of the lineup. That's never fun regardless of who you are."

When asked to pinpoint what's gone wrong, Saad said he wasn't the right person to ask.

"I think you got to ask him that," he said, referring to Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff. "It's his calls. For me, you can talk pros and cons as much as you want but just trying to go out there and compete and win hockey games. We've won a few here, I know every game has gone to overtime so they've been close. Nothing was said to me about lineup change or anything like that. You just come in and you see your jersey and you go out there and you play."

So Quenneville was asked.

"Just expect more," he said. "That's the situation."

Is his mindset in the right place?

"I think he's fine," Quenneville said. "His mindset is what it is. Whether it's urgency or passion, coming up with loose pucks in those areas is going to be the difference."

The Blackhawks sending a message shouldn't only be directed at Saad. It also serves as a reminder to his teammates and is important to note for the younger guys about earning your ice time.

"I don't really know where the coaches are coming from so I'm not going to comment on that," Jonathan Toews said respectfully. "But [Saad] has been doing some good things and I think it's good for all of us to know what's going on there because if [Saad] can get his ice time taken away, then so can a lot of guys, myself included. So we all want to play well and have team success."

The Blackhawks need Saad to return to form quickly because he's crucial to their overall success. There's no debate about that. It's why the thought of Saad, who played in all 82 games last season, serving as the 13th forward is frustrating for everyone involved.

It hasn't been a problem in the past, but now it's becoming one because of the Blackhawks' aspirations of getting back to the playoffs and their dependence on their top players.

"I don’t think it’s an issue," Quenneville said. "We just expect more out of him."

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.