"It's kind of funny. I'm soaking it up, but I've just got to keep working hard. To play with those two guys, two of the biggest names in the game? Just to get a chance to be on a line with them ... yeah, quite exciting." -- Bryan Bickell
-- Bryan Bickell
must have felt as though he won the lottery.
The winning numbers? 19-29-88.
Bickell, who has spent the majority of the past three seasons in the minor leagues, earned an opportunity most hockey players can only dream about during the Chicago Blackhawks
' 7-1 win against the Calgary Flames
When it was time for the 23-year-old from Bowmanville, Ont., to hop over the boards, he did it flanking two of the game's biggest stars -- captain Jonathan Toews
(No. 19), and 2008 Calder Trophy winner Patrick Kane
That magical run of riding shotgun for Kane and Toews continued throughout the team's West Coast trip and culminated Sunday night when Bickell scored the only goal in Chicago's 1-0 win against Vancouver. It was Bickell's first NHL goal in almost three years.
Unfortunately, it will have to last for a while. Bickell was sent down Monday morning as the Blackhawks make room for the addition of Marian Hossa
to the lineup. Hossa has been on injured reserve since the start of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery before the start of the season.
We'll, at least he'll have a raft-full of memories to bring back with him to Rockford.
"Yeah, I know. All my buddies back home are like, 'Are you serious?'" Bickell, a 2004 second-round draft choice, told NHL.com after the first game of the trip, in Calgary. "They're all back home playing NHL on PlayStation or Xbox and I'm up here playing with those two guys.
"It's kind of funny. I'm soaking it up, but I've just got to keep working hard. To play with those two guys, two of the biggest names in the game? Just to get a chance to be on a line with them ... yeah, quite exciting."
Bickell's big break actually began Sunday, during the Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime win against the San Jose Sharks
at the United Center.
The 6-foot-4, 223-pound left wing, recalled from AHL Rockford because of an injury to Kris Versteeg
, started the game on Chicago's fourth line. But after providing a textbook screen on Brent Sopel
's game-opening goal, he was promoted to the first unit alongside Toews and Kane.
Finishing with a plus-2 rating and three shots on goal through 12:28 of ice time, Bickell's performance elicited a "he played very well" from head coach Joel Quenneville
And when the Blackhawks left Wednesday for their annual "Circus Trip," which this season consists of a six-game excursion through Western Canada and California, Bickell was on the charter.
Thursday night against the Flames, Bickell earned a pair of prime scoring chances. In the opening minutes, his left-wing shot squeezed through Miikka Kiprusoff
's pads and just wide of the near post. Later in the first period, after an own-zone Calgary giveaway, he had space and time on a right-wing rush, thanks to a Toews feed, but fired the puck a touch high.
"I got a little antsy there after the pass from Toews," said Bickell. "But I think they put me on this line because I'm a physical guy, a power forward. I like to hit and get the pucks to the skilled guys in the corner. Give them the puck and go to the net and hopefully good things happen, because they're really skilled.
"I'm there to protect (Toews and Kane), too, because they're the go-to guys on our team and people are going to run at them from time to time," added Bickell. "It's just having that presence on the ice, the knowledge that I've got their back."
Bickell has now played four games with the Blackhawks this season, plus he had an assist in Chicago's 9-2 preseason exhibition win against HC Davos in Zurich, Switzerland, on Sept. 28. He's got 11 career NHL contests under his belt, including three appearances in the 2006-07 season that yielded 2 goals.
The Blackhawks next play Saturday night in Edmonton before continuing their journey in Vancouver, San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles.
"It's a great opportunity," Bickell said. "Hopefully I can stay there and contribute a little bit more. I'll just keep on working, and hopefully everything works out."