Blackhawks

Game 2: TVR waits, Bryan Bickell heals for Blackhawks

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Game 2: TVR waits, Bryan Bickell heals for Blackhawks

TAMPA, Fla. – Trevor van Riemsdyk is available to play but it sounds like, for at least one more game, he won’t.

Van Riemsdyk practiced on Friday but coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks will “probably keep the same group on the back end” in Game 2 against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.

It was difficult to guess van Riemsdyk’s status based on practice; Duncan Keith was resting on Friday, so defensive pairings weren’t set. Marcus Kruger was also off Friday just to rest.

[RELATED: Lightning not looking at Game 2 as a must-win]

As for van Riemsdyk, he’s prepared to play if he ends up doing so.

“I feel good,” he said. “The last few days I’m getting better and better, getting more comfortable being out there. I just have to be prepared and, when my number’s called, be ready.”

The biggest question would be how van Riemsdyk would handle the speed of the NHL game, which he hasn’t played since November. The defenseman isn’t too concerned about being thrown into the fray again at this point.

“I wouldn’t say worried. It’d be an exciting challenge to get out there after being out for so long,” he said. “Obviously we have a great group in there that keeps your confidence up. They’ve all helped along the way.”

BICKELL AILING

Something is ailing Bryan Bickell but the forward isn’t sure what it is.

Bickell said he took and cleared concussion tests but, as of Friday afternoon, it sounds like he’s still fighting something.

“I don’t know exactly what it is,” said Bickell, who passed the test prior to Game 1 but did not play. “It’s something that comes and goes. It could come after I’m done talking to you. I don’t know. The verdict of why it happened or what caused it, it’s there. Just taking it day by day right now.

“We did all those concussion tests and everything was clear. It’s just how I feel,” Bickell continued. “I want to help out the team and I don’t want to hurt that team. I’m just taking it day by day.”

[MORE: Teuvo making impact as confidence grows in Stanley Cup Final]

Quenneville, when asked about Bickell passing a concussion test, said, “he passed the concussion test because he never had one.” Quenneville added that he wasn’t “getting into the injury.” Quenneville said after Game 1 that Bickell missed that contest with an upper-body injury.

Even if Bickell’s healed from what’s ailing him, it’s likely the Blackhawks stay with their Game 1 lineup on Saturday night. That means Kris Versteeg will play, taking Bickell’s spot on the second line with Brad Richards and Marian Hossa. Quenneville liked Versteeg’s outing on Wednesday.

“We get him like that, being comfortable and confident, playing with some pace, he can be really effective for us,” Quenneville said of Versteeg. “I thought he had a good first game. We're looking for some progression.”

BITE OR NO BITE?

Andrew Shaw allegedly bit Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman on Wednesday. Shaw, for whom there will be no disciplinary hearing on the matter, wouldn’t divulge much regarding the incident, which happened during a first-period scrum in Game 1.

“I’m not going to get into details,” Shaw said. “We’re here to focus on the next game, and, you know, hockey.”

Hedman hit Patrick Kane after the whistle blew in the first period, and Shaw went after Hedman. Not long after the scrum, video showed Hedman on the bench appearing to say, “he bit me” to a teammate. After the game he said he wasn’t sure – “it felt like it. I have a little bruise, so maybe,” he said.

By Friday, Hedman was ready to put it in the past.

“I’m not going to comment on that anymore,” he said. “Things happen during games. I’ll leave it at that.”

Anthony Duclair regrets not making most of opportunity with Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Anthony Duclair regrets not making most of opportunity with Blackhawks

Anthony Duclair knew what kind of opportunity he had in front of him when he was traded to the Blackhawks in January. The first day he stepped into the locker room, he admitted he was a little "star-struck."

But the marriage didn't last very long. 

After recording only two goals and eight assists in 23 games, the Blackhawks chose to move on from the restricted free agent by not extending a qualifying offer. Duclair later latched on with the Columbus Blue Jackets on a one-year, $650,000 "prove-it" deal.

"I wasn't surprised," Duclair said before Saturday's game against his former team. "I knew that I didn't perform as well as I did when I was there. I think I was there for only 20 games and didn't live up to the standards. As soon as I didn't hear anything from my agent I sort of got the message. But it was time to move on."

Duclair made no excuses for what went wrong in Chicago and accepted responsibility for not taking advantage of his opportunity, even though a leg injury sidelined him for the final month that prevented him from giving the Blackhawks a larger sample size.

"I just didn't perform well," he said. "It's going to be one of my regrets, to get that opportunity in Chicago and not perform in the way I did. It was something I had to look in the mirror this summer and move on obviously, but at the same time whenever a team comes next I think I'm going to take that opportunity and run away with it."

It's obvious that Duclair's got the potential to be an effective offensive player in the NHL. But we've only seen that in flashes, which is a large reason why it didn't work out in Chicago and why, entering his fifth season in the league, he still finds himself trying to play for a long-term contract.

"Just being more consistent," Duclair said. "Thats comes up a lot and my agents talks to a couple GMs around the league and it's something I'm trying to work on. It's not something you can work on in the summer, it's more preparing mentally and physically and that's what I've been trying to do."

So far, so good in Columbus.

Duclair has two goals and two assists through six games and is averaging 15:22 of ice time playing in a top-six role, on track to shatter his previous career high in that category (14:23) when he did so as a sophomore in 2015-16 with Arizona. He even made headlines on Thursday after scoring a highlight-reel goal against the Philadelphia Flyers, saying his "phone blew up quite a bit."

How he scored it is what stood out and his perspective after it is encouraging for his overall growth, as well.

"I've already put it behind me to be honest with you," Duclair said. "I'm just focused on Chicago now. I want to be consistent throughout every shift. Look at that goal, [it was] second and third efforts. That's what I want to bring to the table every shift, especially with the guys I'm playing right now. I just want to be having the puck whenever you can and being big on the forecheck."

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?"