Bryan Bickell had the same thought process in every game, especially every productive game, while he was with the Rockford IceHogs.
“To have a good game, might be the next game I’m called up,” Bickell said. “I played every game like it was my last game down there. I took that in hand and played good hockey and it helped me to get here.”
Bickell, who was sent to Rockford nearly a month ago to hone his game, did just that and was recalled by the Blackhawks on Sunday. He’ll be in the lineup later this afternoon when the Blackhawks host the Winnipeg Jets – coach Joel Quenneville said Bickell would probably be with Andrew Shaw, but wouldn’t say the third forward for that possible line.
The forward had 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in 12 gameswith the IceHogs. For Bickell, that was big. For the Blackhawks, Bickell’s minor-league production transitioning to a Blackhawks team that could use it would be a welcome sight.
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“Production-wise, everyone can contribute in their ways. But if you spend more time in the offensive zone and get more flow to the game, that’s what we’re looking for,” Quenneville said. “Bicks has the ability to score, play big and create traffic at the net and hopefully [get] some zone time. So that’s what we’re looking for from him and basically the other three lines.”
The Blackhawks talked for a few weeks now about possibly bringing Bickell back, but they needed to clear at least $950,000 of salary-cap space to do it. So they placed Viktor Tikhonov, who carries a salary-cap hit of $1.04 million, on waivers on Saturday. The Arizona Coyotes picked Tikhonov up off waivers; Tikhonov was a first-round draft selection (28th overall) by the Coyotes in 2008 and he was with the organization until 2011, when he returned to the KHL.
For Bickell, the last month was like traveling back to his early career years.
“It was like old times, being down there and starting and finding a way to get back up here,” said Bickell. “With the month or so I was there it got me playing time, got me playing how I’m capable of [playing].”
The Blackhawks exhausted pretty much every option in trying to getBickell playing like he’s capable of these past two seasons. In early October they placed Bickell on waivers in a drastic light-a-fire tactic. He cleared and stayed with the team at that time but that move gave the Blackhawks the option to send him to Rockford, without having to go through waivers, later. And after so-so performances and a few healthy scratches, Bickell was sent to Rockford on Nov. 2.
The news wasn’t easy to take but Bickell said he took the right attitude while in Rockford.
“The first time hearing it, [being put] on waivers and knowing it could happen in a month and then it happened, I took a big swallow and accepted it. I was positive down there for the guys and for myself to find a way, and I did,” Bickelll said. “You can look at the numbers and how I approached things to find a way back here. I’m happy to be back.”