Frolik, Bickell need rebound seasons

980555.png

Frolik, Bickell need rebound seasons

Bryan Bickell and Michael Froliks respective European hockey teams were only about 180 miles apart. Bickell played for HC Znojmo in the Austrian League and Frolik for Pirati Chomutov of the Czech Extraliga, just minutes from his offseason home.
Now back in Chicago and preparing for this upcoming 48-game season, their individual goals are about as close as their overseas squads.
Both Bickell and Frolik are coming off frustrating and disappointing seasons with the Blackhawks. Both enjoyed their time playing in Europe and now hope that work there boosts them toward better performances in Blackhawks uniforms.
I wasnt very good last year and I know I can be better, said Frolik, who had 13 goals and 10 assists in 29 games for Chomutov. I worked this summer, played some games in the Czech Republic; Im in good shape but I think I can prove I can be better than last year.
Frolik came to Chicago after tallying two consecutive 21-goal seasons for the Florida Panthers. He hasnt scored 21 goals in the past three seasons combined. Frolik admitted last season that he was pressing, squeezing the stick in frustration and reiterated that again on Friday.
The more you want to score the more it kind of goes against you. I just have to try to forget that and just play the game and try to be relaxed, said Frolik, who added he played in every situation for Chomutov. I just want to play like the first two years (in Florida), and even better.
Bickell is in the same boat, although hes also in the final year of his current contract. Hes coming off a tough 2011-12 during which he was an on againoff again healthy scratch down the regular-season stretch. Bickell was more of a top-line player for Znojmo, for which he tallied nine goals and 18 assists in 28 games.
My first year was a good year and last year was a speed bump, Bickell said. Being overseas and coming into the season where I am now, I feel good. I need to bring it every game, no shifts, no days off, whether its talking to the doc or our leaders to help me through that inconsistency in my game.
Bickell said his Austrian League play was beneficial for several reasons, especially his skating. The bruising forward played in a league that featured more skill than physical play, but he knows that hell need to use his body more again over here to succeed.
When (coach Joel Quenneville) puts me on the power play or whenever, Im there to raise some havoc on the ice. I need to work on screens and tips, Bickell said. This could be a big year for me.
Both Frolik and Bickell are looking to have big years. They got plenty out of their European play. That work needs to come through here with the Blackhawks immediately.
Its an important year for me and the team, Bickell said. We need to have a good start, and so do I.

Blackhawks recall Johansson, assign Schmaltz

Blackhawks recall Johansson, assign Schmaltz

The Blackhawks will be without their No. 1 goaltender for a few weeks, so the obvious backup call-up came on Sunday morning.

At the same time, the Blackhawks are going to give one of their forwards a little work in the minors.

The Blackhawks recalled goaltender Lars Johansson from the Rockford IceHogs on Sunday morning. They also assigned forward Nick Schmaltz to the IceHogs.

Johansson has a 6-7-1 mark with 2.63 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 16 games. This comes one day after Corey Crawford had an appendectomy in Philadelphia prior to the Blackhawks’ 3-1 loss there. Crawford, according to the team, is expected to be out 2-3 weeks.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Schmaltz has a goal and three assists in 26 games with the Blackhawks this season. Schmaltz is one of several forwards who got a top-line opportunity this season and, much like most of the others, couldn’t stick there. He has struggled to find a consistent game.

The Blackhawks face the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday night. Scott Darling is expected to get the start.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Jets tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Jets tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Winnipeg Jets tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 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. Seeking revenge.

In their first meeting of the season, the Jets ended the Blackhawks' 11-game point streak by shutting them out 4-0 in Winnipeg. The Blackhawks will look to get even tonight when the Jets come into their building, where the Blackhawks are 10-1-2. The Jets haven't been as successful away from home, carrying a 4-8-2 road record into the United Center.

2. Tired legs? Not so fast.

It will be a quick turnaround for the Blackhawks, who will play their second game in as many days traveling from Philadelphia to Chicago. But don't expect fatigue to play too much of a role. Well, maybe it will, but the Blackhawks have been close to perfect in the second of a back-to-back with a 4-0-1 record compared to 3-3-0 in the first game. It also helps that Saturday's game against the Flyers was at 12 p.m., giving the team some extra time to recover for a divisional matchup. The Jets, on the other hand, will being playing in their second game in as many nights as well, having played St. Louis last night which ended in a 3-2 overtime win for the Jets. 

3. Who's in, who's out on D?

Trevor van Riemsdyk returned to the lineup Saturday, and certainly showed some rust after missing more than six weeks with an upper-body injury. With it being the second of a back-to-back, the Blackhawks could look to rotate the blue line and reinsert Gustav Forsling, who was a healthy scratch for the first time, back into the equation and perhaps Michal Rozsival, too.

4. Patrik Laine.

The No. 2 overall pick in 2016 has scored four goals and an assist in his last three games, continuing his phenomenal rookie campagin. He's on pace to reach almost 40 goals, which is incredible for a rookie in an era where scoring gets harder and harder. He's tied with Sidney Crosby for the league lead with 16 goals, one of which came against Chicago in the first meeting. 

5. Capitalize on special teams.

The Jets haven't been particularly good on special teams lately. They're 3-for-26 on the power play in their last 10 games, which is an 11.5 percent success rate, and are 26-for-36 on the penalty kill (72.2 percent) in their last eight. Their power play percentage ranks 20th in the league at 15.2 and penalty kill ranks 25th at 79.0. They're trending in the wrong direction. The Blackhawks are still struggling to find a rhythm on the power play, so perhaps this is a good opportunity to break through.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

- Check out the latest stats and standings to make sure you’re ready for action

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

- NBC Sports App FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Blackhawks: All of the most recent news and notes

- See what Blackhawks fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Blackhawks Pulse