With Ben Smith
’s reassignment to Rockford on Monday, the Blackhawks have 12 forwards on the active roster, which means that Bryan Bickell
will be back in the lineup when the Blackhawks take the ice Wednesday in Minnesota. The winger has been a healthy scratch for the last five games.
“It was quite frustrating the first couple of games,” Bickell admitted after Tuesday’s practice. “I was hard on myself, but I picked up my work and wanted to show coach that I wanted to be in the lineup and stay there. I think the work has paid off and I’ll be ready [for Wednesday].”
Bickell started the season on a roll, recording a point in four of the first five games this year. But since then, his production has tailed off a bit, and Head Coach Joel Quenneville says that he’s looking for more consistency in the winger’s game.
“We like his speed and his size, his physicality and he can be better with the puck,” Quenneville told the media after practice. “I just think he had a really strong year for us last year, a good start [this season] and we want to get him back to that pace.”
“Game in and game out, I have to be physical and contribute any way that I can,” agreed Bickell. “I’ve been working hard; I need to focus on hitting and getting the puck in the net. I just need to keep working on those things.”
When Bickell was teamed with Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik last season, the trio made a formidable challenge for opponents with their blend of offensive skill and defensive presence. Quenneville says that he hopes Bickell will bring that consistently now that he has another chance at the lineup.
“I think with his speed and his size and his presence, he should be more of a factor,” Quenneville said. “We saw that a lot last year and I think we need to see that consistently in his game. When he does that, he’s a player we can use in all situations.”
Needless to say, when Bickell steps out of the dressing room at Xcel Energy Center tonight, he will be ready to go from the first shift.
“The last few weeks I’ve been realizing what I need to do to stay focused, to be ready for every shift, every game. [Quenneville] told me to be ready and I think I am.”