Recovering Bickell returns to practice

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell returned to practice on Saturday after missing Thursday’s game against the Dallas Stars with an illness.

“Little flu bug,” Bickell said. “Hit me so hard. I came to the game and was ready to play. I did all my usual routines before the game but I couldn’t play. I couldn’t even see straight really. The worst has passed now.”

The Hawks were confident Bickell would play until nearly the last minute. Instead, the Hawks dressed 19 players for the first time this season. Coach Joel Quenneville downplayed the significance.

“It can happen,” he said. “You could lose a guy in the first shift of the game. You could lose a guy in warm-ups. You could lose a guy getting tossed out in the first shift being the third man in. A lot of things can happen. It’s not like we haven’t been short a guy early in the game [before].”

The Hawks were fortunate none of those scenarios happened Thursday or they would have been short two. Either way, Wayne Gretzky in his prime could have dressed and the Hawks probably weren’t going to win the game, losing 5-0 to the Stars.

Quenneville indicated on Saturday the Hawks were considering calling up an extra body for Sunday’s game against Phoenix.

Dallas fallout: The Hawks held a more intense practice than usual on Saturday. Those come after bad efforts, like Thursday’s in Dallas.

“It was a good practice,” Quenneville said. “More workmanlike than some days. We have to play that kind of way. Hard to play against and a defensive mentality around all areas of the ice makes us effective.”

It’s not a surprise Quenneville was unhappy with Thursday’s effort.

“Every coach would be mad after a game like that,” Marian Hossa said. “If I was a coach, I would be too. It was one of those games. I don’t know what happened but it wasn’t us.”

There was a moment in the game when things could have turned around. Down 3-0 in the second period, the Hawks were given a four-minute power play after Duncan Keith was high-sticked in the face. Moments into the man advantage, Keith took an uncharacteristic charging call on Steve Ott behind the Hawks net. It killed any chance of a comeback.

“You could argue the play,” Quenneville said. “We have to be smart. Discipline is so important, especially at this time of year. Let’s make sure that we channel it properly.”

On your marks…: One disturbing recent trend is the Hawks’ propensity to play poorly in the first period. After an eight-game winning streak which featured the Hawks jumping to early leads, they’ve trailed after the first period in every one of the five games since. They’re 1-2-2 in those games.

“We’ve been giving up some late goals [in periods] as well that are tough to give up,” Quenneville said. “That first goal in the Dallas game was a pivotal goal. The first period against San Jose was OK. Definitely the period that stuck out for me in terms of being loose is the first one in the Florida game. That’s the emphasis going into Sunday’s game. The start.”

The opponent: Phoenix is on a roll. The Coyotes have won five straight to grab hold of the No. 4 seed in the West. It’s a spot the Hawks held not that long ago. The Coyotes won in Vancouver on Saturday after killing off a 5-on-3 Canucks advantage late in the third period and then scoring twice in 1:18.

“It’s a hungry team,” Jonathan Toews said. “Their fans are getting behind them more and more. They’re obviously feeling it. They’re feeling that confidence. We know we might have some of our own fans cheering us on so we want to finish off the season series a little bit better.”