Bryan Bickell's up-and-down season continues.
Bickell experienced another downer Sunday at Buffalo, playing a team-low 7:22 on 11 shifts in the Blackhawks' 2-1 victory over the Sabres.
The Hawks keep waiting for Bickell to be the difference-making player he was in the playoffs last spring.
"I think with Bicks, we're starting to see him more comfortable with the puck," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Hopefully that's a trend where we'll start to see more consistency in his game. But what we're talking about here, every player is a little bit different -- what you say, what you do, whether you communicate by ice time or verbally say things.
"I know certain guys have a pretty good assessment of how they're playing. Some guys need more visitations than others. Bicks is a guy that you try to give him some confidence. I think that's the best way to get him going, but I think we've been patient this year."
Bickell scored a goal against Columbus on Thursday and talked of turning a corner.
"It seems like earlier in my career you want to get points and play your best to be an elite player in this league," he said. "I think I've established what I've done and what I can do. Points are going to come and go. Whether you're winning is the most important thing."
Bickell believes his game is best suited for the playoffs. Quenneville hopes so.
"He was a big factor; he was like a different player," Quenneville said of the playoffs last spring. "He assumed a bigger role and the quality of his ice time changed dramatically.
"He influenced the outcome on a couple series or games, and I thought that this year hopefully that trend is clicking at the right time. Certainly with that size and speed and shot, it's a great package to have and makes us dynamic with that line with one more threat."
Make some noise:
Hawks fans showed again in Buffalo that few teams in the NHL have followers who travel as well.
It started in the morning skate when Patrick Kane loaded the First Niagra Center with family and friends.
"I've never seen that many people at a morning skate, and I'm sure Kaner had a lot to do with that," Joel Quenneville said.
The game was even more crazy. When Kane opened the scoring in the first period with a goal you would have thought you were in the United Center it was so loud.
"It's something we've gotten used to on the road," Kane said. "We have a great fan base that travels with our team. Sometimes in a lot of games on the road you feel like they're home games because we have so many fans following the team.
"It's a quick flight from Chicago, about an hour, and it seemed like a lot of people showed up for the game. It's kind of cool."
Penalty killing it:
The Hawks went 5-for-5 killing penalties at Buffalo to continue their hot streak a man down.
"I think it's a little bit of everything," Joel Quenneville said. "Confidence is part of it, good timely saves, clears, pressure up ice, a little continuity with the pairs as well, blocking shots.
"You get a little momentum on it. You're always going to have good stretches and bad stretches and we certainly had a stretch that was too bad for us for too long. I certainly like the way it's trending."
Corey Crawford contends being more aggressive is one key to the PK success.
"It's nice to be aggressive, but you have to all be on the same page," he said. "All four guys have been on the same page now for a while. Our d-men don't get enough credit."
Niklas Hjalmarsson is right at the top of that list. He blocked several key shots Sunday when the Hawks were short-handed.
The Hawks announced Monday they have signed defenseman Dillon Fournier, the team's second-round pick (48th overall) in the 2012 draft, to a three-year contract.
Fournier, 19, has 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists) in 36 games with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
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