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Blackhawks' Lukas Reichel feels refocused after AHL stint that initially ‘pissed' him off

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Chicago Blackhawks forward Lukas Reichel was recalled to the NHL on Friday after a month-long stint with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs.

The goal of the assignment was to help rebuild the former 2020 first-round pick's confidence, but Reichel had to get over the initial disappointment of it first.

"At first, you're just pissed off and you're frustrated," Reichel said. "But then the next day I woke up and I said: 'I'm going to turn this around and try my best down there and help this team win and to have a win mentality,' and I think it worked out pretty good."

The assignment allowed Reichel to take a breath and get his mind right. He was certainly expecting more from himself this season and it hasn't gone the way he hoped after having only 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 50 NHL games before being sent down.

"Just refocus again and go down there and try to have a good mentality and try to stay positive," Reichel said. "It was not easy, but it definitely helped me. Play a lot of minutes, have a big role and just find my game again and I think it worked out pretty well. We won a lot of games and it's a really good team down there, so it was fun playing with them."

Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson received positive reports on Reichel from IceHogs head coach Anders Sorensen and Chicago's management group.

"I think at the beginning, he had some real good bursts and then there was some fall-off," Richardson said. "Just maybe the concentration level and probably lots going on in his mind. But the last little bit, he's been a top player. Lots of points, he finally scored and shooting the puck a lot more. Even in practice today, he had that mindset, so it was great. 

"I only talked to him right when he left and then just talked with people that have watched him, and he seemed like he was making his progress for sure and hopefully that leads to some success up here, because he’s had it here before and maybe last year’s path was what he needed to do again. Some peoples’ paths are just multiple times and sometimes it’s once for some people."

Getting Reichel in the right mindframe was the main reason for the assignment, but he also focused on specific areas on the ice, which included being stronger on the forecheck and playing without the puck. The IceHogs won eight in a row while Reichel was with them, too, which probably helped his mental state.

"It was lots of fun," Reichel said. "We won so many games. Unfortunately we lost the last one but it was just good to see all the guys there too. Lots of friends there and we had a lot of fun."

In his first practice with the Blackhawks again on Saturday, Reichel admitted he felt "a little bit nervous." In fact, on the very first drill, he accidentally sailed a puck over goaltender Arvid Söderblom on his opening shot and it nearly hit the netting.

"It was pretty bad," Reichel said smiling. "Guys were laughing. But after that, I felt it was good and it was fun seeing the guys again and practice with them."

Reichel skated at left wing on the third line with Andreas Athanasiou and Nick Foligno at practice. Reichel had some pretty strong chemistry at the end of last season with Athanasiou, and the two of them are hoping to rekindle that.

"Playing with anybody, you figure out how to play with them and you go out there and do the best you can together as a line," Athanasiou said. "It just clicked at the right time. We were skating well together and play similar styles, so it just works out. Hopefully we can get right back to it.

"He's such a good player. I think he knows that. Obviously when things don't go your way, it's tough times, but you just have to work through it and see the brighter side on the other side and keep working towards it."

Reichel is scheduled to draw into the lineup on Sunday vs. San Jose, and he's looking to prove that he's still capable of being the player that he knows he can be.

"I'm just the same player that I was since I'm here," Reichel said. "I feel more confidence now and I want to show that tomorrow."

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