Andrew Shaw has kept in touch with Bryan Bickell on a regular basis since Bickell was sent down to the Rockford IceHogs more than a month ago.
“We text every week, I check in and see how he’s doing and he sees how I’m doing,” Shaw said. “That’s what friends do.”
The two friends may be back in the same locker room soon enough.
The Blackhawks placed Viktor Tikhonov on waivers on Saturday morning and coach Joel Quenneville said Bickell “could” be recalled. Tikhonov, according to generalfanager.com, carries a $1.04 million cap hit; his heading to waivers gives the Blackhawks the salary-cap cushion they would need (at least $950,000) to bring Bickell back.
Quenneville wouldn’t say Bickell is absolutely returning, but it’s certainly looking that way. The Blackhawks, be it Quenneville or general manager Stan Bowman, have said that once Bickell starts improving with the IceHogs, he could return. With Rockford Bickell has 14 points in 12 games, including a goal and two assists in the IceHogs’ 4-2 victory over San Antonio on Friday night.
“I haven’t seen him play. Reports are he had a real good start, good game last night, so we’ll see,” Quenneville said following Saturday’s practice. “It was probably tough and challenging knowing he’s been in the NHL for all that stretch. Definitely it gets your attention.”
Bickell did get off to a hot start with the IceHogs. He had at least two three-point games in mid-November, when the question first started arising again: was it time to bring Bickell back? Asked that in Vancouver on Nov. 21, Bowman said the team would, “assess as we go.”
“He’s been doing what we said when we sent him down: ‘You gotta get your confidence back, gotta get your game going.’ He’s playing a lot of minutes, a lot of situations down there,” Bowman said at the time. “The better he plays down there, the better chance he has to come back and help us.”
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Teammates were happy to see Bickell’s rebound in Rockford.
“He’s a guy a few years back who was a huge part of our team. He can be that guy, can play pretty much any line on our team from first line to third line and be effective,” Patrick Kane said. “I had some great times with Bicksie over the years, whether it’s on the ice or off the ice. I think he’s a great kid. I think he’s a very good hockey player, too. He can be a guy that can come back in, be re-energized and play well for us the rest of the year.”
- Marko Dano was not on the top four lines at Saturday’s practice. Asked what Dano needs to do more of, Quenneville said, “just be more consistent in the puck area both ways, be positionally aware, [have] strength in the puck, controlling it. Production, we’d like to see that as well, but we have six, seven, eight, nine guys in that area."
- Corey Crawford will start vs. the Winnipeg Jets Sunday.