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Professional

Blackhawks rookie still looking for first goal after 29 games

Tough scoring start for Sikura

Blackhawks rookie Dylan Sikura (left) hasn’t scored his first goal 29 games into his career, but has contributed in other ways to help the team.
Blackhawks rookie Dylan Sikura (left) hasn’t scored his first goal 29 games into his career, but has contributed in other ways to help the team.

The puck was bouncing around the corner during the first period of the Blackhawks’ 5-4 victory over the Maple Leafs on Wednesday when, in a single motion, Dylan Sikura controlled it, turned and sent a perfect pass to Brandon Saad waiting alone in front of the Leafs’ net.

Just as the puck left his stick, Sikura was crunched into the boards by defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, and ended up laid out on the Scotiabank Arena ice while Saad celebrated after giving the Hawks a 4-0 lead.

It was a display of skill, patience and fearlessness, precisely what the Hawks had hoped Sikura would provide when they moved him to the top line with Saad and Jonathan Toews.

As long as the Hawks are seeing those plays from their 23-year-old rookie, the goals can wait.

Twenty-nine games into his NHL career, Sikura is still looking for his first goal. He knows he can contribute in other ways, but he sure would like to get that first one out of the way.

“I’d like sooner rather than later to get one, but you can’t really think about that,” Sikura said. “You’ve got to think about the stuff that gets you those chances and the ice time playing with those guys. For me as a young guy in the first year, it’s important to do those little things – be a reliable guy and let the scoring take care of itself. It’ll come at some point.”

Sikura, a 2014 sixth-round draft pick, knows how to put the puck in the net. He had 43 goals in 73 games over his final two seasons at Northeastern, and scored 13 in 40 games with the Rockford IceHogs this season.

He signed with the Hawks last March after Northeastern’s season ended, and had two assists in his first NHL game – but no goals. When the Hawks called him up in December to begin an 11-game stint, he had three assists, and he has had four more in 13 games since his latest recall from the
IceHogs.

That first goal has proved elusive, but the support from his teammates has helped alleviate any pressure.

But to be sure, Sikura is feeling the weight of, well, the wait.

“Yeah, just because it is the first one,” he said. “Before every game, the guys are helping me out, saying, ‘Tonight’s the night.’ It gets frustrating at times. You want to produce and you want to contribute to help the team. Sometimes when you’re not putting up points, it feels like you’re not helping out, but there’s a lot of different things you can do to help out, and I know [coach] Jeremy [Colliton] takes note of those things.”

Forward Chris Kunitz came up late during the 2003-04 season, and the NHL canceled the next season because of a lockout. As a result, he went nearly 2 years from the time he made his debut before scoring his first goal.

The prolonged wait didn’t prevent Kunitz, a 15-year veteran, from totaling 266 regular-season goals, plus another 27 in the postseason.

“[The first one] definitely felt good,” Kunitz, 39, said. “For most guys who are offensive players throughout their lives that grow up scoring goals and helping your team win, it just puts you off in the right mindset that, ‘Hey, I can do this now.’ Leave it in the past from there.

“But it did take awhile. I told [Sikura] that [Monday] night on the bench. I was like, ‘Hey, it took me 2 years and 26 games to get my first.’”

Sikura had five shots on goal against the Leafs, and nearly scored against the Stars last week after taking a feed from Toews in front of the net. Being on the top line will get him more chances and more ice time and, eventually, that first goal – and a keepsake puck to display on his mantel.

“If you ask anyone who’s not scoring – they go three or four games without a goal, they get frustrated,” Sikura said. “It’s been tough. It’s tough that it’s the first one, and not just any other slump. Just [need to] know that you can score here, and I’ve had good chances. You’ve got to do the little things, you’ve got to be playing good to get those chances.

“They’re not just going to give you a goal. You’ve got to go out there and earn it.”

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