In a shortened NHL season where depth is going to mean everything, Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik need to step up for the Blackhawks after disappointing years in 2011-12.
Bickell had only 9 goals in 71 games (down from 17 the previous season), while Frolik had just 5 goals in 63 games, scoring on 4.3 percent of his 117 shots.
Both players were in Europe for the majority of the lockout and posted impressive numbers they hope translates into successful NHL seasons.
Bickell had 9 goals and 18 assists in 28 games playing for Znojmo in Austria, while Frolik had 13 goals and 10 assists in 29 games for Pirati Chomutov in the Czech League.
"For sure, I wasn't very good last year and I know I can be better," Frolik said. "I worked in the summer and tried to play some games in Czech. I think I'm in good shape and hopefully I can prove I can be better than last year."
Frolik admitted to pressing too much last season.
"Maybe I put too much pressure on me and think too much about it," Frolik said. "It's just hockey.
"For sure, if it (the puck) doesn't go in you think about it. Then the more you want to score and everything goes against you. Last year maybe I was thinking too much and kind of squeeze(d) my stick too hard. I just try to be relaxed more and play the game and we'll see what happens."
This is a contract year for the 26-year-old Bickell, who knows he must produce if he wants to stay with the Hawks.
"My first year was a good year, last year was a little speed bump, but being overseas and coming into this season where I am now, I feel good," Bickell said. "I need to have a good start and help this team out.
"I need to bring it every game, no shifts, no days off. I've got to be mentally focused. If it's talking to doc (team mental skills coach Jim Gary) or talking to the leaders ... this is an important year for me and for the team -- 48 games is a lot different than 82. We need to have a good start and so do I."
Frolik would like to show Hawks fans he is more the player who scored 21 goals two years in a row for Florida than the one they saw for a full season last year.
"I think I got the first 2-3 years very good and then it's kind of been down a little bit," Frolik said. "I just want to find a way to play like the first two years and be even better. Hopefully I get the chance here. I want to prove I can be in this league. I just want to be here and do something here."
Frolik would love to pick up where he left off playing in the Czech League.
"I played 15 minutes from my home, so I was back home," Frolik said. "I got like a point a game so it was fun. I played a lot and I played everything: power play, PK, so I got a lot of ice time. Hopefully, I can have an advantage for the start here."
Bickell, who sees himself playing on the third line with Dave Bolland, knows the goals probably won't come as easy as they did in Austria.
"They gave me more leeway to score goals and there wasn't much hitting over there, with the bigger ice," Bickell said. "They're a lot smaller and quicker; they're very good skaters over there. Being over there helped my skating."Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.