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Blackhawks recall forward Bryan Bickell from AHL

by Brian Hedger / NHL.com

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks recalled forward Bryan Bickell from Rockford of the American Hockey League on Sunday

Bickell will play against the Winnipeg Jets at United Center (5 p.m., TSN3, WGN).

"I'm excited to be back," said Bickell, who hoisted the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks three times in a span of six seasons. "This last month was like old times being down there [in the AHL], and starting and finding way to get back up here. I think with the month and a half or month I was there, it got me playing time, it got me playing [how] I'm capable of ... I'm just happy to be in the lineup tonight."

A roster spot was created when forward Viktor Tikhonov, 27, was claimed off waivers by the Arizona Coyotes, who selected him with the 28th pick in the 2008 NHL Draft.

Bickell, 29, started the season with the Blackhawks. After clearing waivers Oct. 3, he had no points and a minus-3 rating in seven games before being reassigned to Rockford on Nov. 2.

Rockford coach Ted Dent put Bickell, a 6-foot-4, 223-pound power forward, at left wing on the IceHogs' top line and used him on the first power-play unit. He thrived in the role and had 14 points (seven goals) in 12 games.

"I think [it helped] to get my confidence and belief in myself that I can play in this League," Bickell said. "To contribute in any way was what I needed to do. Going down there [Dent] and the guys were open to giving me [ice time] and to get my confidence back and [get me] playing the way I'm capable of [playing]. Hats off to those guys."

The Blackhawks, who've lacked scoring depth and consistency at left wing, hope Bickell can have the same effect for them. Bickell said he scaled back his physicality in Rockford, trying to avoid injuries that might've prevented his recall to the NHL, but plans to ramp his hitting back up now that he's back.

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said it's a prerequisite for Bickell's success.

"We need him to be that player [who's] up and down; play big and be a power forward that [we're] looking for," Quenneville said. "If you want to be successful, you've got to get inside and you've got to be at the net and you've got to hang around the net. There'll be some times when they're pressing, [when] you've got to be physical, and when you're thinking about avoiding injuries, sometimes it can be dangerous."

Bickell missed most of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning because of an upper-body injury that caused symptoms similar to vertigo. He started this season still dealing with those symptoms, but said he's feeling better.

If Bickell is able to recapture his level of play from the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Blackhawks could get a nice boost. He played a big role in Chicago's 2013 Stanley Cup title, finishing with 17 points (nine goals) in 23 games. He has another year left on his contract, which has a $4 million cap charge according to War-On-Ice.com.

"He's a guy, a few years back, who was a huge part of our team," said right wing Patrick Kane, who has points in 21 straight games and can set a new Blackhawks record with a point against the Jets. "He can be that guy, can play pretty much any line on our team, from first line to third line, and be effective. He can be a guy that can come back in, be re-energized and play well for us the rest of the year."

Tikhonov signed with the Blackhawks on July 1 as a free agent, joining rookie left wing Artemi Panarin, his friend and former teammate with SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League. Tikhonov didn't have a point in 11 games and was scratched in 13 of Chicago's past 16 games.

Most recently, Tikhonov played left wing on the fourth line. He got a tryout at left wing on the top line as well, playing with captain Jonathan Toews and right wing Marian Hossa.

Tikhonov, who had eight goals and 16 points in 61 games with the Coyotes in 2008-09, had acted as Panarin's main translator. Quenneville hopes Panarin isn't affected adversely after getting off to a great start in his NHL career.

"He's been here awhile now," Quenneville said. "I think he's adjusted well to his teammates, to the team, to Chicago, to the language, to the culture, and every day you see progress in that regard. [Artem Anisimov] is Russian as well, and they play on the same line, so I think there's still some continuity there. [Panarin and Tikhonov] had a great relationship and I still expect them to have one, but at the same time, it's part of the hockey business. [Tikhonov is in Arizona] and we wish him well."

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