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Blackhawks' Lukas Reichel looking more like himself as he tries to find ‘that killer instinct'

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Chicago Blackhawks forward Lukas Reichel has had a tough season, to say the least. There have been far more downs than ups, but he's slowly — emphasis on slowly — starting to turn things around.

On Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers, Reichel ended a 26-game goal drought by following up his wrap-around shot early in the first period to put his team on the board. It was his first goal since Dec. 19 and just his fourth goal of the season.

"That wasn't an easy goal," Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson told reporters. "He had to take the puck to the net, and he stayed with it on the second play."

Reichel later added a primary assist on Joey Anderson's goal in the third period after he made a strong play on the wall that got the puck out of the zone. Anderson's goal made it a three-goal lead, which essentially sealed the deal for the Blackhawks, who beat the Flyers 5-1.

It was the first time all season Reichel had recorded a multi-point outing.

"He was responsible," Richardson said. "I think he gained confidence scoring early. It seemed like he had some mojo in that first period."

Reichel has been a more impactful player over the last two weeks after spending a month with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs. The stint allowed him to mentally reset and it's paid off so far, even though he didn't necessarily light it up in the minors.

Reichel has particularly been much better away from the puck. A week ago in the epic 5-4 comeback win in San Jose, he was probably one of their better players in that department.

"I feel like confidence is such a big thing," Reichel said of where he's taken the biggest stride since his stint in Rockford. "But without the puck and getting pucks back and competing every single day, that's a big thing that I needed to work on and I've made a big step.

"I've been working on that since I got here and two years in Rockford. It's getting better but I'm still young and I have so much to work on and improve on."

In that San Jose game, Reichel laid a big hit on Kunin in the first period, which is something you rarely see from him. He then had a late shift in the second period where he stripped Filip Zadina on the backcheck, made a nifty move on the zone entry, and then made a full-circle in the offensive zone before the Blackhawks got off a shot. And in the third period, he stole the puck in the offensive zone, made a play to the point, and then cut across to fire off a one-timer.

"I thought he had an excellent second half of the game in San Jose," Richardson said. "One of the more noticeable guys."

Against Philadelphia, Reichel registered four shots on goal — all of which came in the first period. It was his second-highest total of the season.

For context, Reichel hadn't registered more than two shots on goal in a game since Dec. 31 prior to Saturday. It had been a while, and Reichel is trying to have a little bit more of a "killer instinct," he says. Saturday was a baby step in that direction.

Reichel probably wants to make sure he finishes the season strong because he's a pending restricted free agent. He's going to get a second contract from the Blackhawks, but it probably won't be as big as he was originally expecting.

"I mean, a little bit, but you just try to not think about it," Reichel said when asked if his contract status is on his mind. "I love it here, I love the boys, I love the city. You just try not to think about it. All I can think about now is playing my best game and show that I can play in this league."

If Reichel plays more like he did on Saturday, that would benefit both him and the Blackhawks. And there's still more room to grow, too, even in the good games.

"I liked him having the puck on his stick skating, and he can skate a little more," Richardson said. "Sometimes he took a little bit of speed off to try to make a play. I think he's got to — not be selfish, it's just part of the game. If it's there, take it. I'd like to see him just be a little bit more determined to continue to drive.

"But I loved him. He was shooting pucks tonight, and made the right plays on the blue lines for other people too, so I think that gave him the confidence to do that."

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