Bryan Bickell’s at it again

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Maybe it’s a seasonal thing.

For the second straight spring, Chicago forward Bryan Bickell has emerged as a playoff sniper — in Sunday’s Game 5 win over Minnesota, he scored his NHL-leading sixth goal of the postseason — but this time, the heroics come after a poor regular season in which he scored just 15 points, missed 20 games to injury (plus some as a healthy scratch) and generally disappointed in the first of a four-year, $16 million extension.

To hear Bickell explain it, though, he hasn’t changed anything from the regular season to playoffs.

“I don’t alter my game based on who we are playing,” Bickell said, per the NHLPA website. “I think for any player it’s about being consistent in every area of your game, working with your linemates to be effective every shift.”

Working with linemates has been key for Bickell, especially lately as he’s replaced the injured Andrew Shaw on Chicago’s top power play unit. He has two goals on the man advantage against the Wild and, as Marian Hossa pointed out, Bickell’s 6-foot-4, 233-pound frame will often yield positive results when put in front of the goal.

“He deserves being on the power play without [Shaw] not being on the first PP in front of the net, and even on the second power play, he’s done a great job,” Hossa said, per the Chicago Daily Herald. “He’s got a couple tip-ins and tonight a big goal by him, so if you put him in front of the net good things happen.”

All of this springtime success will lead to the inevitable question: Why can’t Bickell do this all the time? ‘Hawks fans will no doubt be front-and-center with those queries, as Bickell’s lackadaisical regular-season play can be a lightning rod for criticism, especially in light of his $4 million annual cap hit — which, to be fair, he earned on the strength of last year’s nine-goal, 17-point effort en route to Chicago’s second Stanley Cup in four years.

In fact, it almost sounds like Bickell consciously saves himself for the playoffs.

‘‘If I played like this all through the regular season, I would be in the ice tub probably 24 hours,’’ Bickell said, per the Sun-Times. ‘‘It’s tough hockey, and I want to play it most of the time in the regular season, but it’s hard. But playoffs is playoffs, and you do whatever it takes.’’

With 15 goals in his last 34 playoff games, it’s hard to argue with the approach.

Report: Blue Jackets RFA Anderson in contact with Hockey Canada about 2018 Olympics

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The preseason is well underway and Josh Anderson is still without a contract.

Anderson, who scored 17 goals and 29 points last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is one of two remaining restricted free agents without a new deal. The other is Andreas Athanasiou of the Detroit Red Wings.

While there were reports this summer about Athanasiou potentially going to the KHL for this season, John Shannon of Sportsnet reported on Thursday that Anderson’s representatives have reached out to Hockey Canada’s staff about the 2018 Olympics. 

Anderson’s entry-level contract, with an AAV of just over $894,000, expired at the end of last season.

Meanwhile, here is the latest on this ongoing contract situation.

Making an impression: Sergachev has ‘NHL written all over him’

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Mikhail Sergachev has, over the summer, stated his belief he can play in the NHL this season.

He had a small taste of NHL action last season, appearing in four games for Montreal — the team that selected him ninth overall in 2016 — before getting sent back to junior and then being traded in June to Tampa Bay, as part of a blockbuster involving Jonathan Drouin to the Habs.

Well, Sergachev made a statement Wednesday in his preseason debut for the Lightning.

He scored once. He also played more than 22 minutes, which led all Lightning players on the night. That included time on the power play and penalty kill. If he was looking to make a favorable impression, to show that he belongs at the NHL level when the regular season begins, this seems to be another step in that direction.

“You watch this kid skate, shoot, stickhandle, he’s got NHL written all over him,” Tampa Bay’s associate coach Rick Bowness told the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we’ve got to give him experience. How much can he handle?”

There is competition on the blue line, with eight defensemen under contract in Tampa Bay for this season. That includes Sergachev, who is still only 19 years old. After getting sent back to junior last season, he recorded 43 points in 50 games with Windsor and then won the Memorial Cup that spring. That said, he’s made it a point of saying going back to junior “is not an option” for him.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Mikhail Sergachev

Report: Lupul will have ‘independent medical exam’

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Joffrey Lupul issued a statement Wednesday, saying he wouldn’t seek a second medical opinion after the Maple Leafs announced he didn’t pass his training camp physical.

A day later, reports have surfaced that the 33-year-old forward will, in fact, undergo another, independent medical test.

That is according to James Mirtle of The Athletic:

Earlier this week, Lupul made accusations against the Maple Leafs on Instagram.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per a screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

Lupul, who didn’t pass his physical for a second year in a row, issued an apology yesterday. But those comments — which have since been deleted — seem to have grabbed the attention of the league.

Darren Dreger of TSN added to that, saying it’s the NHL pursuing a second medical opinion on this matter.

“The National Hockey League has that right to pursue the second opinion. That’s exactly what they’re engaging in right now,” Dreger reported Thursday.

“The reasoning behind it is because of the comment that Lupul made on social media. I’ll go back a year ago. The league didn’t step in a year ago but Lupul stayed quiet at that point. So they want to make sure — ‘They’ being the National Hockey League — that the medical evaluation from the Toronto Maple Leafs is 100 per cent above the board.”

Team USA won’t include NHL draft-eligible prospects at 2018 Olympics

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) General manager Jim Johannson has ruled out the possibility of the U.S. men’s hockey team having NHL draft-eligible prospects competing at the Winter Olympics in February.

Johannson tells The Associated Press he doesn’t view anyone from the 18-and-younger pool of prospects capable of cracking the projected lineup of non-NHL players, many of whom are opening this season playing in Europe.

USA Hockey’s assistant executive director says he’s also targeting a number of established college players, and would not rule out keeping a spot or two open for members of the U.S. team competing at the World Junior Championships this winter.

Johansson spoke in Buffalo, New York, on Thursday, where he is attending USA Hockey’s sixth annual All-American Prospects game. The game features the top 42 U.S.-born players eligible to be selected in the NHL draft in June.