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Bickell?s intangibles make a difference

by John Manasso
NASHVILLE -- Bryan Bickell played in only two games for the Chicago Blackhawks following the Olympic break.

But when coach Joel Quenneville was looking for more energy, grit and size with his team trailing 2-1 in its first-round Western Conference series with Nashville, he went to Bickell.

Not only did Quenneville insert Bickell in the lineup, but he played him on a line with Chicago's two highest-scoring forwards, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

The results for Chicago were tangible in the 3-0 victory at Bridgestone Arena that evened the series, as Bickell drew the penalty that set up Chicago's first goal and then earned the secondary assist on the Hawks' second goal.

"He's great, he fills in where he needs to be," Toews said. "He's a big body and he's playing just the way we need to play as a team. He's big and strong, keeps plays alive and protects [the puck]. He has a big shot and can make plays around the net when it counts."

The 6-foot-4, 223-pound Bickell used that big body and strength to go to the net in pursuit of a rebound in the first period, drawing an interference call on Nashville's smaller Francis Bouillon at the 10:47 mark.

Chicago scored 10 seconds later to make it 1-0.

"Well, Bick, you like what he brings," Quenneville said. "He's got some patience with the puck, which complements his linemates, and he's pretty fortunate to come in and he plays with Toews and Kaner.

"So he's been effective each and every time he's gotten in the lineup for us. It's always been on a need basis. This time he did get in on that situation and all of a sudden his impact was noticeable in there."

The 41st pick in the 2004 Entry Draft, Bickell's need basis was fairly limited for most of the season for the NHL's third-best team. He played 65 games with Chicago's top affiliate, Rockford of the American Hockey League, totaling 16 goals and 15 assists.

With Chicago, he dressed for only four games in the 2010 calendar year, finishing with three goals and one assist.

So it was not surprising that Bickell admitted to jitters at the outset.

"It's a good opportunity," he said. "It shows my character. To be pressured in a spot -- the first time in a playoff game ever."

He finished plus-2 in 12:45 of time on ice and had two hits and a blocked shot. Not bad for only playing with Kane and Toews two or three times in the past, as Bickell put it. Playing with those two, he said, you don't spend much time in your defensive zone, which makes it much easier not to worry about keeping the puck out of your own goal.

"You give them the puck and they make plays," he said. "You just go to the net and hopefully it works out, and it did tonight."

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