Bryan Bickell, Michal Handzus

Bryan Bickell’s at it again


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.

Latest report leaves Carey Price’s injury timeline fuzzy

Carey Price
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There’s one thing we seem to know about Carey Price‘s injury situation: he first got hurt stepping on a puck on Oct. 29, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Contrary to earlier reports about him missing about a month, it sounds like his window of recovery is still up in the air (which, to be fair, could mean that he’ll still miss about a month when it’s all said and done).

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that Price underwent testing with Montreal’s team doctor on Saturday and is expected to go through more; we may not know more about his expected injury timeline until early this coming week.

So, basically, Price’s situation is fuzzier than his mustache right now.

Leg injuries can be tricky anyway, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that there are mixed signals regarding Price, and this may remain a fluid situation for some time.

(But we’ll hopefully know more soon enough.)

Lightning lament life as a .500 team

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The Tampa Bay Lightning have plenty of time to rise above mediocrity, yet it still must be deserving to finish at .500 for two straight months.

After last night’s 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders, that’s exactly where they find themselves:

Record at the end of October: 5-5-2

Record at the end of November: 11-11-3

As of this writing, the Lightning found themselves on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. It all stands as a pretty tough thing for the reigning Eastern Conference champs to swallow.

The uncomfortable-yet-vital question is: can the Lightning break out of this funk?

Looking at their schedule, it won’t be easy, at least not right away.

They crawl through California during a three-game road trip to start December, and they also face six of eight on the road from Dec. 2 – 18.

The Lightning soak up home dates to finish 2015 after that, but what damage will be done by then?

Frankly, the Bolts will need to dig deep to break this pattern. If nothing else, they’ve fought with their backs against the wall before.

Dubinsky won’t change, and he won’t go easy on Crosby


Sometimes a suspension will shame a player, or at least inspire him to change the way he plays.

That apparently won’t happen regarding Brandon Dubinsky‘s one-game timeout session for cross-checking Sidney Crosby.

Dubinsky told Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch that he won’t alter his style, whether it’s against Crosby or someone else.

“Nope,” Dubinsky said. “You know, I’ve played the same way my whole career and I’m not going to change. The next time I have an opportunity to play (Crosby), I’m going to play him hard.”

In case you’re wondering, that next opportunity comes on Dec. 21 in Pittsburgh, assuming that both players are healthy and not suspended.

One can understand Dubinsky’s perspective, although such honesty would be that much more interesting if there’s another incident with Crosby. His initial reaction to the hit was interestingly candid, admitting that his “stick rode up” on his adversary.

Would that stance – which, from a harsher view, might seem flippant to Dubinsky’s critics – open the door for a bigger future bit of a discipline?

Maybe, maybe not … but at least his comments aren’t as inflammatory as what John Tortorella said (at least on the record).

Bad news for Boedker: Coyotes won’t face Sens again in 2015-16


Sorry Mikkel Boedker, you won’t get to face the Ottawa Senators again this season.

OK, it could happen if the speedster is traded from the Arizona Coyotes. He could also face the Senators in the unlikely instance that the two teams fight it out in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Beyond those two possibilities, Saturday night was it, and Boedker must have been licking his chops much like an actual coyote.

For the second straight game, Boedker managed a hat trick against the Senators, helping Arizona beat Ottawa 4-3 last night. His third tally stood as the game-winner in a 4-3 victory.

You can watch all three goals in the video above.

It’s oddly fitting that Boedker has three goals this season … against teams not named the Ottawa Senators.