Bickell sees improvement after playing in Europe

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Bickell sees improvement after playing in Europe

Bryan Bickell was so used to the bigger European ice that when he first returned for the Blackhawks informal workouts, he misjudged the area.

I remember the first practice (back) here at Johnnys, I ran into the boards, Bickell said. All the guys liked that.

All kidding and smaller ice area aside, Bickell took advantage of his time playing over in Europe. And he said the biggest improvement he made was with his skating.

It was the systems, I think, Bickell said. There isnt a lot of structure but its a very big skating league with the bigger ice, and just the open ice so much more. It was just overall the ice and how good the skaters were. The systems arent what they are here, but it was a good league.

Bickell joined HC Znojmo, an Austrian League squad based in the Czech Republic, in early October. Besides adjusting to the country, Bickell had to get used to the bigger ice fast.

Positioning-wise, the smarter play is probably the easier play with less skating. There is so much ice, so much more time that if you give any guys that are skilled a chance, theyll blow by you. You had to position yourself in the right spot, Bickell said. It took a couple of games to figure it out; a lot of huffing and puffing those first few games. But hopefully I can keep it going over here.

Coach Joel Quenneville said he saw the change in Bickell immediately.

I noticed him the first day in camp that he's skating better, Quenneville said. He might have shed a few pounds, and he was talking about the big ice surface over there, where it's more of a skating game. We like his size, we like his quickness, and with his physicality added to that.

Bickell got his skating work in over in Europe. He hopes to keep seeing results of it now that hes back in a Blackhawks uniform.

I know we have to stick to our systems and its not a run and gun game over here, but my cardio and and fitness right now is probably the highest its ever been. Coming off that and not sitting here waiting for the season to start was huge. I feel good and were playing good.

Kevin Dineen to stay on Blackhawks' staff as Avalanche hire Jared Bednar

Kevin Dineen to stay on Blackhawks' staff as Avalanche hire Jared Bednar

The Blackhawks' coaching staff will be intact for the 2016-17 season.

Two weeks after Patrick Roy abruptly resigned as head coach, the Colorado Avalanche officially picked Jared Bednar to be his replacement over Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen, who was among the favorites for the coaching vacancy.

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Bednar has no National Hockey League coaching experience, but did guide the Columbus Blue Jackets' American Hockey League affiliate to a 15-2 postseason record last season en route to the franchise's first Calder Cup championship.

Retaining Dineen is good news for the Blackhawks, who start training camp next month, but it goes without saying that Dineen is certainly deserving of a second crack at a head coaching position in the near future.

Dineen, Mike Kitchen and head coach Joel Quenneville will enter their third season together after helping the Blackhawks capture a Stanley Cup in their first year as a group in 2015.

Jonathan Toews named Team Canada alternate captain for World Cup of Hockey

Jonathan Toews named Team Canada alternate captain for World Cup of Hockey

Jonathan Toews was named alternate captain of Team Canada on Thursday for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.

Sidney Crosby was named Team Canada’s captain. Crosby, who claimed his second Stanley Cup in June, was also Team Canada’s captain en route to the gold medal at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

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Toews, who has been the Blackhawks’ captain since the 2008-09 season, was also alternate captain of Canada’s 2014 Olympic squad. Shea Weber of the Montreal Canadiens will serve as Team Canada’s other alternate captain.

Duncan Keith won't play for Team Canada in World Cup of Hockey

Duncan Keith won't play for Team Canada in World Cup of Hockey

Duncan Keith will not be part of the Blackhawks’ World Cup of Hockey contingent after all.

Keith will focus on improving his health rather than play for Team Canada in the tournament, which takes place next month in Toronto. The Blackhawks released a statement regarding Keith on Wednesday afternoon.

"As Duncan continues offseason rehabilitation on the right knee injury that he sustained last season, we understand his decision not to participate in next month’s World Cup of Hockey," team physician Dr. Michael Terry said in the statement. "We believe it is in his best interests to focus on getting stronger and not risk further injury."

Keith had surgery on that knee last October and was sidelined about one month.

St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester will take Keith’s place.