Skille, Bickell step up for Hawks

They may not have the star power of Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane but while that duo convalesces, forwards Jack Skille and Bryan Bickell have picked up the slack.

Skille scored twice, Bickell once, in the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators Wednesday night. Both, full-time, first-year players have been as noticeable on the ice lately as they have been all season.

Skille is coming off a season-high nine-shot performance Friday against Detroit and several other games with great scoring chances, but he has had nothing to show for it. That wasn’t the case on Wednesday. He was 2-2.

“I think it’s [shot percentage] still pretty low,” Skille joked after the game. “I need to work on that. We played hard tonight. We played smart. It was fun tonight, that’s for sure.

“It’s pretty easy to get frustrated when you’re getting all those opportunities and they’re not going in. It’s more of a battle if you’re working hard on a consistent basis every day, and usually those shots will go in.”

Skille’s first tally came on a beautiful wrist shot that somehow found an opening between goalie Anders Lindback’s left shoulder and the near post.

“I’ve always been told by goalie coaches when you’re coming down the ice to shoot short side high,” Skille said. “I don’t want to give up my secret there but I think goalies know that’s what’s going to happen.”

If Skille has been snake bitten than Bickell has been anything but. He scored his 10th of the season to seal the game late in the third period. He has six goals in his last eight games. And so what’s the secret?

“Simple,” he said. “That’s about it. Just get my shots on net and they’ve been going in. Can’t complain.”

Bickell has been doing it almost exclusively without a slap shot, using a wicked wrist shot instead.

“I don’t like to pull it [slapshot] out because it takes me a while to wind it up and get it off,” Bickell stated. “I like to keep it simple and keep it quick.”

Skille wasn’t far from Bickell on the ice when he scored.

“I asked him if he was shooting for a rebound there so he could help me with [the hat trick],” Skille quipped. “He was honest enough to say no.”

“I didn’t recognize it was him,” Bickell retorted. “I wish I did give him a rebound and give him his first hat trick.”

The two are linked through youth and came up through the Hawks system together. Joel Quenneville is seeing more out of them every day.

“They’ve both had stretches where they’ve been very good and they’ve had some stretches where we’re looking for more,” Quenneville said. “At the end of the day they both have good ability to become not just regular players but better than that.”

High praise from the head coach, usually reserved for the stars. Two of them aren’t on the ice right now so the accolades have to go somewhere during the Hawks three game win streak.

Skille and Bickell will do just fine.