Blackhawks

Blackhawks 'could' recall Bickell after placing Tikhonov on waivers

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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.”

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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.

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

Corey Crawford is back and it didn't look like he skipped much of a beat. The Blackhawks were handed their first regulation loss of the season to the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday, but the 33-year-old netminder stopped 27 of 30 shots (.900 save percentage) in his season debut and made several timely saves to keep his team in it.

In the larger picture, it was a win based on how well Crawford looked between the pipes.

"Yeah, I think it is," coach Joel Quenneville said after practice on Friday. "It's one of things we were wondering, how he would handle post-game and how he came in today. Very encouraging signs. He felt good in all aspects of what he went through and dealt with, and practiced well today too, so that was good."

The first one is in the books.

But what's the plan going forward? Will Crawford be on a "pitch count" or will they treat him like they have in past seasons when he was healthy?

In the past, Crawford has generally started somewhere in between 55-58 games per season. Part of that has been because of injuries. Another part is the Blackhawks have had reliable backups, which allowed them to give Crawford an extra night off here and there to keep him fresh.

It's not unreasonable, though, to think Crawford could flirt with 50 starts, considering he missed only five games to start the season. And they can still accomplish that by playing it safe.

The Blackhawks have 13 more back-to-backs this season, which gives them the opportunity to start Cam Ward at some point in each of them. That leaves room for another 15 or so starts to sprinkle in for Ward that could serve as rest days for Crawford and still being on track to start around 50.

Obviously, the Blackhawks want to be careful with how much they ask of Crawford because concussions are tricky to deal with and every player responds differently to it.

His return comes at a time where the Blackhawks are slated to play seven games in 11 days after playing just two in the previous 10. Thursday marked the start of that stretch.

"He’ll tell us how he feels and we’ll go from there and make those decisions," Quenneville said.

The Blackhawks have been on record saying they prefer not to carry three goaltenders. But in this case it makes sense. At least in the short term.

Quenneville said Friday that the Blackhawks will reevaluate the situation at the end of the weekend following the beginning of a busy stretch where they'll play three games in four days.

"Yeah, that’s the mindset," he said. "Let’s see how we handle these three in four and then we’ll address it."

Crawford is expected to start on Saturday in Columbus, making it his second start in three days. That's when they'll get a better sense of how he's handling things.

If it were up to him, Crawford said he feels he's prepared for it.

"Yeah, sure," Crawford said. "Why not? I've been working hard with [strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman]. He's got me where I need to be, so I'm in shape right now. Why not?"

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Corey Crawford’s season debut after missing nearly 10 months with a concussion.

Mayers talks about the Kitty system that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Vinnie Hinostroza probably dealt with in their returns to Chicago.

The guys also discuss what’s next for Crawford, the upcoming matchup against Artemi Panarin and the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Blackhawks’ biggest areas for improvement.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!