After special game with brother, Dylan Sikura works to earn spot with Blackhawks

SHARE After special game with brother, Dylan Sikura works to earn spot with Blackhawks
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Chicago Blackhawks right wing Dylan Sikura (95) in the first period of an NHL hockey game Friday, March 30, 2018, in Denver. | David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Left wing Dylan Sikura made his NHL debut with the Blackhawks on March 29 and played in the final five games last season, but the preseason game Friday might have been his most meaningful game yet.

“It was awesome,” Sikura said Sunday of playing with his older brother, Tyler. “Obviously, [it’s] both our childhood dreams to play in the NHL and to do it on the same line, it made it pretty special.”

Other than the occasional short-stick hockey games in their basement, the Sikuras hadn’t played together since Dylan was in ninth grade and Tyler was in 12th.

But shortly after the game, reality sunk in. Tyler was reassigned to Rockford, and Dylan survived the Hawks’ second round of roster cuts.

With Tyler gone, Dylan continues to eye the opening-night roster. And he’s making a strong case to be on it.

Sikura, 23, has been skating with a lot of confidence in camp. He attributed his “pretty cool, calm” attitude to the fact he has NHL experience.

“Having those five games last year and coming up here just kind of helped with getting to know the systems,” Sikura said.

Sikura also has learned to trust his abilities even when things don’t appear to go his way.

In his freshman season at Northeastern (2014-15), Sikura had an underwhelming seven points in 25 games.

“First year, [I] struggled a little bit,” Sikura said. “Obviously was a big jump coming from the [Ontario Junior Hockey League] back in the Toronto league. But it’s just kind of sticking with it.”

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Trusting the process worked for Sikura. He continued to get better and finished his NCAA career on a high note, posting more than 50 points in each of his last two seasons. Last season, Sikura had 54 points in 35 games for the Huskies and averaged the second-most points per game (1.54) in college hockey.

Sikura hopes his college experience can help him adjust to the NHL.

“At this level, you’re going to go through some ups and downs, as well,” Sikura said. “It’s something that I can always date back to and kind of remember the feeling of the tough times I was going through, and hopefully I can just use that as motivation.”

Sikura, a sixth-round pick in the 2014 draft, would add youth to the Hawks’ aging group of forwards. Although coach Joel Quenneville shuffled the lines at practice Sunday, Sikura could land on the third line. He often has played there with center Artem Anisimov.

Sikura also could be the answer — or at least part of it — for the Hawks’ troublesome power play. Last week, when assistant coach Kevin Dineen ran through power-play drills with two groups, Sikura was on the second unit with forwards Victor Ejdsell, Brandon Saad and Chris Kunitz and defenseman Erik Gustafsson. Sikura led the NCAA last season with 14 power-play goals.

NOTES: Coach Joel Quenneville hinted that goalie Corey Crawford could join the team in practice this week, which would be his first team practice since February. Crawford, who has lingering symptoms from a concussion he suffered last year, has continued to show improvement during one-on-one sessions with goalie coach Jimmy Waite. On Sunday, Crawford appeared to be moving better in the crease as Waite upped the tempo.

• Quenneville mixed up the lines at practice. Forward Dominik Kahun replaced Chris Kunitz on the top line, joining Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat. Quenneville moved Brandon Saad from the second line to the third and replaced him by moving Nick Schmaltz from center to wing and putting Artem Anisimov at center.

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