Blackhawks breakdown: Bryan Bickell

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Blackhawks breakdown: Bryan Bickell

CSNChicago.com Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers and PGL host Chris Boden will evaluate the 2011-12 performance of each player on the Hawks roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in numerical order.

Coming off his first full season in which he scored 17 goals with 20 assists in 78 games, Bryan Bickell's numbers dropped considerably. In 71 games during the 2011-12 season, Bickell managed just nine goals and 15 assists and finished minus-3 with 128 hits (down from 178 the prior season). Bickell scored two goals in the playoff series vs. Phoenix, with both coming in Game 2 -- including the game-winning goal in overtime.
Boden's take: The 6-foot-4 winger had an encouraging start from where hed left off in his 17-goal season of a year ago: two goals and two assists in the first five games.Then, Bickells game completely disappeared. And not only was he unproductive, he wasnt using his size and he was taking bad penalties. But in the middle of that nine-game nightmare in February, his game started coming back again and was very effective with Dave Bolland and Andrew Shaw on that third line down the stretch and into the Phoenix series.But he cant deliver another nine-goal campaign as he did this year when you examine his full body of work.It almost seemed like Stan Bowman chose between Bickell and Troy Brouwer (18 goals, 15 assists, 247 hits with the Capitals in 2011-12) a year ago after the latter underachieved.He chose Bickell on what he saw, and the two players made it look like a mistake.

Myers' take: Let's look at the end of the regular-season and playoffs when it comes to Bickell, shall we? Hey, we're just saving you time. Because there wasn't much to talk about with Bickell through the start and middle of last season. Bickell had the chance to be that big body up front, that physical presence that the Blackhawks have lost so much of the past two offseasons. And he was -- late in the season.

For most of it, however, Bickell was invisible; and the several healthy scratches he got didn't seem to stoke the fire much. If Bickell had been playing at the beginning as he did at the end, he would've been a much more noticeable presence.

2012-13 Expectations
Boden: Bickells 541,000 salary played into that Bowman decision, too.This coming season, Bickell has money at stake becoming an unrestricted free agent a year from now.He knows what hes counted on for, and admitted during his three-month absence he wasnt doing his job. Hes a real nice guy, but one wonders if hes capable of finding that nasty switch to turn on when he hits the ice.He has to carry over his finish and keep it consistent.And by the way, the Hawks need net-front presence and youd think Bickell is tailor-made for that.On top of that, there should be other big bodies pushing him for ice time in Jimmy Hayes and Brandon Saad.His finish may have worked him back into Joel Quennevilles good graces, but based on this past season, figure his leash to be a lot shorter.

Myers: Bickell's entering the final year of his current contract, and if there's anyone who could use the ol' contract-year type of season, it's Bickell. He needs to come out of the gate physical and strong. He and Bolland have formed good chemistry on the checking line the past two seasons and Bickell needs to build off that. When he wants to be good, Bickell can be just that. But he can't spend the first four months of the season playing mediocre hockey.

How do you feel about this evaluation? As always, be sure to chime in with your thoughts by commenting below and check out highlights of Bickell above.

Up next: Ray Emery

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Grab the first goal.

The Blackhawks have scored the game's first goal in seven of the last eight games, and of those seven, they've won six of them. Meanwhile, the Lightning have scored the first goal only 17 times in 48 games this season, and are 12-5-1 in those games. They're 9-17-4 when they allow the first goal, so getting out to a lead first will be important against a struggling Lightning team looking for signs of life.

2. Will the floodgates open for Jonathan Toews?

After a four-point game in a 4-2 win over Vancouver, the Blackhawks captain matched his point total over his previous nine games. He's up to 26 points on the season, which is now fifth among Chicago forwards. When Toews has offensive droughts, they usually last longer than they should. But when he gets hot, he gets extremely hot. Perhaps we'll see the floodgates open offensively.

3. A chance for the team lead in scoring.

With an empty-net goal on Sunday, Marian Hossa tied Artem Anisimov for the team-lead with 18 goals. Artemi Panarin is right behind with 17, and Patrick Kane isn't far either at 15. The Blackhawks had four 20-goal scorers last season, and haven't had more than that since the 2013-14 season. They're definitely on pace to hit four, but could they surprass that? Richard Panik, who scored another goal Sunday as well, is fifth with 11 goals while Ryan Hartman has 10. Toews is at eight, but a flurry after a drought could make things interesting.

4. The triplets reunited?

In an effort to jumpstart a struggling offense, Lightning coach Jon Cooper reunited the triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat that was so successful during their 2015 playoff run in their latest game, a 5-3 loss to Arizona. It's unclear whether they will begin tonight's game on the same line, but if not, it's worth watching throughout the game whether they do. The Blackhawks have been coming at opponents in waves lately, so Cooper could look to separate the three to distribute the scoring.

5. Take advantage on special teams.

The Lightning have racked up the fifth-most penalty minutes in the league, and own a bottom-10 penalty kill unit at 80.1 percent. The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team, and have converted on 17.9 percent of their power plays, which sits at 16th. But they haven't scored one on the man advantage in five straight games, going 0-for-9 during that span. Here's a chance to change that.

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Report: Cubs preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson

Report: Cubs preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson

The Cubs are preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson, hoping the talented, frequently injured pitcher can stay healthy and provide insurance for their rotation.

Anderson posted a telling message on his Twitter account on Monday night, hinting at what would be another offseason check mark for the defending World Series champs.

The physical for the agreement — first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and MLB Network — won't just be a formality as Anderson underwent back surgery last March and appeared in only four games for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season.

But Anderson fits on paper as a left-hander who will turn only 29 on Feb. 1 and won't have to carry front-of-the-rotation responsibilities or feel Opening Day urgency on a team with five projected starters.

The Cubs had been willing to gamble around $6 million on Tyson Ross, who recently signed a similarly structured one-year deal with the Texas Rangers as he recovers from surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome.

The calculus would essentially be the same with Anderson. The Cubs have to factor in last year's grueling playoff run into early November, this season's sky-high expectations, the organization's lack of high-end, upper-level pitching prospects and the uncertainty surrounding the 2018 rotation.

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Anderson finished sixth in the 2009 American League Rookie of the Year voting with the Oakland A's, but he's reached the 30-start mark only one other time and never accounted for 200 innings in a single season.

Anderson underwent Tommy John surgery in the middle of the 2011 season, and the injuries piled up from there, dealing with a strained right oblique, a stress fracture in his right foot and a broken left index finger.

Anderson had such a fragile reputation that he accepted the one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Dodgers after a strong platform year in 2015 (10-9, 3.69 ERA). The Dodgers only got 11 1/3 innings out of Anderson, who didn't pitch during a playoff run that ended at Wrigley Field in the National League Championship Series.

The Cubs stayed exceptionally healthy while winning 200 games across the last two seasons and need to be prepared in case John Lackey sharply declines at the age of 38 or Mike Montgomery experiences growing pains while transitioning from the bullpen.

Whether or not Anderson is ultimately the answer, the Cubs will be looking to place a sixth starter into their plans.

"I don't know if a six-man rotation on a permanent basis is the wave of the future," team president Theo Epstein said earlier this winter. "But we certainly endorse it on a temporary basis as a nice way to pace guys for the whole season.

"We can get them some rest, whether you do it in April to preserve depth and ease guys into the season, especially after a deep October and November run. Or after the All-Star break in the summer to kind of get through the dog days and give guys a little bit of a breather as you ramp up for the stretch run.

"I think it would be tough to pull off all season long. But it's something that (could certainly work) in the right spot."