Bryan Bickell is aware of the numbers.
Whenever the Blackhawks play the Minnesota Wild, Bickell’s name is automatically brought up. That’s what happens when your strongest numbers come against one team. But Bickell’s game has been trending in the right direction, to borrow a coach Joel Quenneville quote, since the playoffs began.
Still, the Wild seem to bring out the best in Bickell, and time will tell if that team has that same effect on the Blackhawks forward.
Bickell has 15 goals in a combined 23 regular-season and playoff games vs. the Wild, who the Blackhawks face in their second-round series beginning on Friday night at the United Center. His playoff breakdown against the Wild: four goals and two assists in six second-round games last season, three goals and an assist in five first-round games in 2013.
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When Bickell was asked if drawing the Wild evoked a gleam in his eye, he got a grin on his face.
“Yeah, I saw a couple stats the last couple years,” Bickell said following Monday’s practice. “You know, whoever it (is) going to be we need to play a team game. It’s not just me. (I’ve) seen the back of the net, and hopefully that trend keeps on going.”
On Monday, Bickell was on the second line with Brad Richards and Patrick Kane. The trio was put together during Game 4 against the Nashville Predators and was on the ice — with Bickell at the net — when Brent Seabrook scored the game-winning goal.
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Quenneville also smiled when talking of Bickell’s success level vs. Minnesota, especially this time of year.
“Minnesota or the playoffs: Hopefully the combo connects again,” Quenneville said. “I thought he had a good first round. I thought he did a lot of good things. I think he was skating extremely well. I thought that physical presence was there. He didn’t have the production that we’ve seen in the playoffs in the past, but I think you play like that with Bick he brings other elements that still make a contribution to your game. He was close around the net, and he was a factor with the overtime goal. It was pretty big the other day with his net-front presence. That’s what we’re looking for.”
As Bickell said, it can’t come down to one player, even one who’s done so well against a particular team. Against the Predators, many chipped in offensively. Still, it’s always nice when a player, especially one whose confidence wavered throughout the regular season, faces a team against which he has tremendous confidence.
“I have to look over the video to see how I scored those goals to see what I need to do to be successful against this team,” Bickell said. “It’s a new season, a new series. Things change. Different players need to step up. We’re looking forward when that game comes.”