4 things we learned at Chicago Blackhawks practice, including Lukas Reichel’s swing at wing and Connor Bedard’s goal insight

It had been two days since the Chicago Blackhawks got smacked during an 8-1 road loss to the Arizona Coyotes, but Nick Foligno didn’t seem any less agitated after practice Wednesday.

It wasn’t just about one loss, but a lost opportunity.

“Inconsistent, like the year. That’s the disappointing part,” Foligno told reporters Wednesday at Fifth Third Arena. “We’ve got to get on a roll here.”

For every Hawks win (Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vegas Golden Knights), they’ve followed up with a loss — each progressively worse than the last (3-1 to the Boston Bruins, 4-0 to the Colorado Avalanche, 8-1 to the Coyotes).

You can’t “rebuild” if you’re standing still, or even taking a step backward.

“We’re searching for putting a string of games together,” Foligno said. “Inconsistency is not fun and it’s between the ears a lot of times.”

After the Bruins pushed the Hawks around 3-0 in the rematch Oct. 24, the Hawks dug in during a practice full of battle drills and brought it to the Knights during a 4-3 overtime upset Friday.

Then Monday at Mullett Arena, the Hawks were all business during a 1-1 battle in the first half of the first period, but it was Arizona that had a party in the back half with two goals in a two-minute span.

The Yotes were yukking it up in a four-goal second.

“We have a great start and as soon as adversity hits, we’re back into old habits,” Foligno said. “You can’t have those momentum swings and that mindset.”

Coach Luke Richardson said there were some mitigating factors:

  • Ryan Donato was shoved on several missed scoring chances.

  • Seth Jones was tripped in the corner by Liam O’Brien (with no call) seconds before Josh Brown’s goal, Arizona’s second.

  • And Connor Murphy fell down, causing a tripping penalty to set up Michael Carcone’s power-play goal.

“So, bang, it’s 3-1 and I thought we had a pretty good first period on the road,” Richardson said. “Unfortunately, it was like maybe five minutes into the second period (when) we got off our game plan.

“That’s where the immaturity of us as a team showed, and that’s where we’ve got to get stronger. We’ve got to stick with it.”

Here are four things we learned from practice Wednesday.

1. Lukas Reichel practiced at wing — finally.

The third-year forward played left wing with Andreas Athanasiou manning center and Taylor Raddysh taking the right.

“I think we’ve got speed,” Reichel said. “As a wing, you don’t (have) to stretch the Ds back and make time for (Athanasiou) and Radds, and (you can) think more offensively and (not) always worried about D-zone and staying back.”

Richardson said it’s not a sure bet Reichel will stay at wing when the Hawks host the Florida Panthers on Saturday, but it’s worth a look: Reichel hasn’t recorded a point in nine games.

“We might even move him back, it’s just on maybe Taylor (Hall) coming back” from a shoulder injury, Richardson said. “We just thought we’d try him there and see what it looked like with (Athanasiou) playing in the middle again.

“I thought (Athanasiou) looked pretty good in the middle at times last game when he got some chance there. Just trying to figure out what’s going to look the best.”

Patience is a virtue, but the Hawks may have reached the limit with Reichel’s goal drought.

He certainly has.

“Of course I’m pissed. I’m frustrated,” Reichel said. “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.”

Tyler Johnson has been there.

“It’s one of those things that you feel like no matter what you do, nothing’s working,” he said. “Sometimes that can play with you a little bit, maybe even force you to work too hard, and when you’re doing that, you’re pushing too much.

“I’m not saying that’s what he’s doing at all, but in my experience, that’s what happens to me.”

Outwardly, Johnson said Reichel has been very mature about this rough stretch, and he hasn’t sensed that Reichel’s “down on himself.”

As someone who has played across the forward line, Johnson said it might not be a question of whether Reichel is better suited to center or wing, but about his ever-changing linemates.

“We’ve kind of been in the blender a little bit, especially with the last game and everything that’s been going on,” Johnson said. “When you’re playing with different guys, that kind of makes you think about who you’re playing with, compared to what you need to do, just because you want to try to be in sync with them. So maybe that helps you get out of your little funk if you’re in one.

“But I think he’s done a good job. And I think whether it’s center or wing, he’s going to get the results as long as he keeps working.”

2. Connor Bedard’s getting more comfortable.

His scoring spurt certainly suggests it. He’s had a goal in three of the last four games.

“Just having confidence shooting the puck,” he said.

But as a center, Bedard knows he can’t just sit back and snipe.

“It’d be nice to get one around the net as well,” Bedard said. “I say it a lot, I don’t feel like I’m a shooter, I’m just trying to make the right play. If the shot’s there, I’ll take it.”

His comfort goes beyond his shot.

He started his NHL career with five road games, where the 5-foot-10, 185-pound teenager was picked on by bigger skaters — not that he’ll ever acknowledge noticing it. He did admit time and space for a shot closes fast at this level.

Bedard played his first two home games before he was back on the road again, but “you get more used to it all the time.

“It’s been good so far. Obviously you’ve got to adjust to that, but we get treated pretty well.”

He’s also adjusting to the speed of the game.

“It’s not (that it’s) slowed down, but you feel more comfortable as you go,” Bedard said. “From Game 1 to now, I just feel more comfortable on what to expect.

“I think that’s the biggest thing, just knowing what it’s like. You’re obviously playing new teams, but kind of the pace, speed and everything, that’s the biggest thing.”

3. Youth is just a ‘crutch.’

Perhaps should not be cut any slack because of their lack of experience.

Ten Hawks who’ve played at least one game are age 24 or younger, particularly prominent contributors such as Bedard (18), Kevin Korchinski (19) and Reichel (21).

On the other hand, eight players are 30 or older, including Foligno, who’s second-oldest at 36.

“You understand where you’re at (with youth), but you can’t accept that. That’s going backwards,” he said. “If you’re an NHL player you’re expected to (have) an NHL mindset and learn quickly.

“We all had that. ... You’ve got to learn at some point.”

It’s part and parcel with a rebuild. There’s a tendency to focus on draft picks and write off the season as a learning experience.

4. Taylor Hall appears closer to a return.

The Hawks placed the top-line forward on injured reserve Oct. 24 after he aggravated a left shoulder injury, but he worked out before practice Wednesday.

“First day of skating, he’s been working out in the gym and feeling better,” Richardson said. “I think he even asked to progress to the battle drills (last week), but we’re not going to skate tomorrow, we’re going to have a gym day and little bit more of a meeting and video stuff, and then get back on the ice Friday.

Hall may try to test himself Thursday or Friday at practice.

Meanwhile, defenseman Alex Vlasic is “making his stages” through the concussion protocol, Richardson said.

“I don’t think he’s quite at the stage where he goes to the neuro-psych people to get tested yet, but I think he’s getting close.”