Lukas Reichel moves to wing as Blackhawks try to spark sputtering offense

Chicago
By Chicago 5 Min Read

There was some frustration in Blackhawks forward Lukas Reichel’s voice as he answered questions Wednesday about his scoreless start to the season.

“Of course I’m pissed,” Reichel said. “I’m frustrated. I want to score. It’s more fun if you score, of course — that’s why I’m a forward. But I try to stay positive and keep working.

“I feel like I’ve got chances, but I’ve just got to bury them. Sometimes you need a little puck luck and a bounce [off] a skate goes in — that’s what I had last year. I work hard and try to forecheck hard and play a simple game, and hopefully I’ll get a good bounce.”

During practice Wednesday, Reichel moved out to the wing on the second line for the first time this season, with Andreas Athanasiou taking over at center and Taylor Raddysh occupying the other wing.

It’s possible Reichel moves back to center when Taylor Hall recovers from his shoulder injury, coach Luke Richardson said, but this marks at least a temporary pause in the Reichel-at-center experiment after nine games with zero points.

Richardson said he’s trying to reinforce the decisions Reichel makes that lead to his good plays, like one Monday when he pinned a Coyotes player in the defensive zone.

“Sometimes creating offense means good defense,” Richardson said. “Otherwise you’ll never have the puck and you’ll chase around the whole shift. We can only encourage him and try to give him the right game plan that will work for him and our team.

“If he can, [he needs to] stay positive and stay fresh. He’s a young guy; he has to roll through these ups and downs. He has to know that we believe in him, but then he’s the one who has to step on the ice and do it.”

But getting Reichel alone going won’t solve the Hawks’ scoring woes. In Monday’s blowout loss, they attempted more shots than the Coyotes but generated only eight high-danger scoring chances to Arizona’s 22.

That wasn’t an anomaly for the Hawks, either. They rank last in the NHL in high-danger scoring chances per minute (during five-on-five play) in addition to 27th in total scoring chances per minute and 29th in expected goals per minute, per Natural Stat Trick. Overall, they’re also tied for 29th in goals per game (in all situations) and 31st in power-play percentage.

Changing those numbers will require a shift in approach, which forward Nick Foligno directly acknowledged.

“We’re a team that needs goals. We’re starving for goals,” Foligno said. “When we play the right way, we seem to get them. But when those games like the other night happen, they’re few and far between.”

Forward Ryan Donato said the team needs to simplify their offensive approach. 

“The best teams in the league score their goals off rebounds and in front of the net, so I think we’ve got to create more off the rush and score a little bit more. We need some shots from the point [to] maybe find a couple more dirty goals.”

The Hawks focused on a box-out drill in practice, which allowed the defense to work on their positioning and the offense to work on tipping in shots. The Hawks have players who have a history of scoring in this league, but they need to get those guys in the right positions.

As the Hawks look to create more scoring opportunities, Hall’s return could help. The former MVP skated Wednesday and is progressing well. Richardson said he might return to practice Friday.

“A guy like him, who has had a history of scoring goals and making big plays in this league, we can’t wait to get back,” Foligno said.

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