What looked like a move to send Bryan Bickell to the Rockford IceHogs appears, in fact, to be the ultimate wake-up call attempt.
Bickell cleared waivers and will play Saturday night with the Blackhawks when they host the Dallas Stars in their preseason finale. Bickell was placed on waivers at 11 a.m. on Friday and cleared 24 hours later.
“I’m just taking it as an awakening, set a fire,” Bickell said following morning skate. “I look at the clock: it’s 11:16 and I’m still here and I’m looking to play tonight to really show them I can get that game back. I want to be a Blackhawk forever. Second opportunity.”
The Blackhawks have tried plenty of light-a-fire tactics in the past with Bickell, including healthy scratches. His overall game, however, hasn’t had the consistency it had in the spring of 2013, when he helped the Blackhawks win the second of their past three Stanley Cups. Bickell is in the third year of his current contract, which carries a cap hit of $4 million per season. Sportsnet.ca reported on Thursday that the Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers talked of a trade regarding Bickell, but that didn’t happen.
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“Organizationally we know Bicks can bring a lot to or team,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ll talk to him individually, like we will all the players on Monday, about roles and job descriptions. We think he can be a factor and we need him to be. So that’s where it’s at.”
Bickell is here right now. Will he stay? Ultimately, that’s up to Bickell and his play but if he’s still struggling in the short term the Blackhawks have options. According to generalfanager.com, the Blackhawks have 29 days/nine NHL games played in to reassign Bickell to Rockford without him having to clear waivers again.
“Yeah, I'm not sure what it is,” Patrick Kane said of Bickell getting the wake-up call. “But we were all happy to see him this morning. And I think he's playing tonight, so I'm sure he's excited about that. I'm sure it was a tough day for him yesterday. He's close with a lot of guys in here, so we all feel for him and I think we all hope he’s here.”
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Bickell said he took Friday for himself to collect his thoughts and sort out what was happening. The Blackhawks sent him as big a message as possible while still keeping him here. As Bickell said, it’s up to him now.
“I know there’s been ... healthy scratches to kind of spark me. This is maybe a (motivation) to really show that I really want to be here,” Bickell said. “I don’t want to leave. [I want to] play like I used to play and be a physical presence on the ice; and with this team, that’s what I think we need and I need to bring it every night.”