Blackhawks

Five Things: Bryan Bickell makes presence felt in Blackhawks return

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Five Things: Bryan Bickell makes presence felt in Blackhawks return

The Blackhawks needed to get back on track, needed to start finding chemistry in their lines and, most important, needed two points.

They did all of that on Sunday in their 3-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. It was a game that featured a little bit of everything and one off which the Blackhawks could build. So before we call it an early night – thank you for the afternoon game, NHL schedulers – let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over Winnipeg.

[MORE: Patrick Kane sets Blackhawks point-streak record in win over Jets]

1. Kane sets a new record. It was a pass, but not the pass you’d expect from Kane, that gave him a franchise-best, 22-game point streak on Sunday. But in a game when the Blackhawks were obviously doing everything they could to help Kane keep that point streak going, it’s not about style points. Bryan Bickell, who’s back with the Blackhawks, enjoyed being here for this one. “To see him get it with 80 seconds left was nice,” Bickell said. “I’ve been watching on highlights; he’s a special player. It’s fun to watch.”

2. Hope Trevor Daley is OK. When you see a stretcher come onto the ice for a player, you just kind of hold your breath and hope for the best. Daley, who was falling forward when he took a knee to his head in the second period, ultimately didn’t need that stretcher. How Daley is going forward remains to be seen. Coach Joel Quenneville should know tomorrow, so for now we’ll take Daley going off under his own power as a good sign.

3. Bickell is back. Bickell said prior to the game that he didn’t play his most physical during his month-long stint in Rockford, fearing an injury could hurt his chances of returning to the Blackhawks. He saved a big hit for his first game back, however, leveling former teammate Dustin Byfuglien late in the first period. Said Kane, “That was awesome. We all like Big Buff over here, but I think that's something we're missing a little bit from our team game. It kind of set the tone for the game.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

4. Teravainen gets back on the score sheet. Teravainen said he’s still trying to find his game, but he could get a boost of confidence from his game-winning goal, his first goal since Nov. 4 (against the St. Louis Blues). Teravainen is back on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. It didn’t work previously in part because Teravainen looked hesitant, like he needed to pass to his veteran line mates more than necessary. He needs to shoot when he can; he saw on Sunday that can work.

5. Kruger no goal, no problem. Marcus Kruger almost had his first goal of the season but it was disallowed, ruled that it went in with a distinct kicking motion. Quenneville had no problem with that – “it looked incidental but the follow through was the part that… made it easier for them.” The Blackhawks shrugged it off, with Hossa scoring late in the first period to get that early 1-0 lead.

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Anton Forsberg cleared waivers on Tuesday morning and was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League.

That's good news for the Blackhawks organizational depth chart, with Forsberg as the No. 3 in goal. But it also complicates things in Rockford, where Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen have been sharing the duties.

Delia is 3-1-0 with a 3.26 goals against average and .910 save percentage while Lankinen is 0-1-1 with a 3.39 GAA and .825 save percentage. Perhaps the most likely scenario is Lankinen gets sent to the ECHL with the Indy Fuel while Delia and Forsberg split the load in Rockford.

It's certainly a good problem to have, but it's still unclear how that dynamic will play out.

"We haven’t talked about that," coach Joel Quenneville said. "But we expect [Forsberg] to play."

Luke Johnson recalled

With a spot opening up on the 23-man roster, Johnson is being brought back up after he was squeezed out by Corey Crawford's return. He had a goal and an assist in two games with Rockford.

Brandon Saad returns to top-six role

After turning in arguably his best performance of the season on Sunday, Saad is back playing on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane. He had seven shot attempts (three on goal) against Tampa Bay and led the team in 5-on-5 possession numbers.

"[Saad] is coming off a game where we liked what we saw," Quenneville said. "Playing with Kaner can help him get going."

Nick Schmaltz to play right side for first time in NHL career

Eight games into the season and Schmaltz has spent time at both center and left wing. Now he'll get a look on the right side with Alexandre Fortin on the left and David Kampf centering the third line.

Part of the reason for Schmaltz’s move to the right side was because Quenneville said they like Fortin on the left. It's not unfamiliar territory for Schmaltz, but could take some time getting used to.

"I played a little while back, not sure when," Schmaltz said "Just a little bit different. Catching pucks on your forehand now instead of your backhand. It's not a huge adjustment, just play with speed and compete hard and hopefully the skill on our line will take over."

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

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AP

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

The Blackhawks have said all along that they don't plan on carrying three goaltenders, but wanted to do so during the three games in four days stretch just in case, with Corey Crawford coming back from a 10-month layoff because of a concussion.

After being encouraged by how Crawford has responded to his return, the Blackhawks placed goaltender Anton Forsberg on waivers Monday morning. Teams have 24 hours to put in a claim for the 25-year-old goaltender and would have to keep him on their NHL roster for 10 games and/or 30 days before he's eligible to go through the waiver process again.

His chances of getting claimed by any of the other 30 teams essentially depends on which teams believe Forsberg would be an immediate upgrade over their current backup — or starter, for that matter — or whether there's an injury to one of the team's two goaltenders that requires a placeholder, like we saw the Carolina Hurricanes do by claiming Curtis McElhinney from the Toronto Maple Leafs after Scott Darling's injury in the preseason.

If Forsberg goes unclaimed, the Blackhawks can assign him to the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs. With Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen sharing the goaltending duties in Rockford, it's possible Lankinen gets sent to the Indy Fuel in the ECHL to get consistent starts under his belt.

A third option, one that isn't very common but we've seen in the past as recently as last October with Maple Leafs goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, is that Forsberg can be loaned to any AHL team while still being a part of the Blackhawks organization. This would allow the Blackhawks to keep Delia and Lankinen in Rockford while Forsberg gets his starts in the AHL, too.

Or, the Blackhawks could simply trade Forsberg to another NHL team that could stash him in the AHL, as long as he clears waivers. They did it last season with Chris DiDomenico, who cleared waivers as a member of the Ottawa Senators but was then traded to Chicago for Ville Pokka days later. Had DiDomenico been claimed by the Blackhawks, he would have had to stay on the NHL roster as noted above.

Forsberg was 10-16-4 with a 2.97 goals against average and .908 save percentage in 35 appearances last season but has not appeared in a game yet this year. He was acquired as part of the Brandon Saad package for Artemi Panarin in June 2017.