Blackhawks News

Chicago Blackhawks: Bryan Bickell Is Actually Back

By Colin Likas
Jan 5, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell (29) skates with the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. Chicago won 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 5, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell (29) skates with the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. Chicago won 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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As far as birthday presents so, Bryan Bickell being recalled by the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday morning is certainly a weird one for me. There was a large section of the fan base, at various times this season, that thought Bickell would never wear the Indian Head again. But it looks like he’s going to do just that.

The suddenly injury-laden Blackhawks decided to re-add the mercurial winger with just two regular-season games remaining. They managed to stay just under the salary cap while doing so, per General Fanager.

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This move comes directly on the heels of an injury to Artem Anisimov in Tuesday night’s 6-2 thumping of visiting Arizona. Anisimov was boarded by former Blackhawk Antoine Vermette in an awkward, bang-bang play. Coach Joel Quenneville said after the game Anisimov will be day to day, similar to wingers Andrew Shaw and Marian Hossa. Add the ongoing suspension of Duncan Keith and the continuing injury to Corey Crawford, and the Blackhawks suddenly look a lot less healthy than they did just a week or so ago.

Bickell isn’t coming in to replace Anisimov directly, of course. In all likelihood, this is a move to see if Bickell can still hang at the NHL level. His struggles have been well documented, as his vertigo problems in the 2015 postseason derailed his time with the Blackhawks in a big way.

Bickell last played for the Blackhawks on Jan. 8 against Buffalo, logging just 5:33 in ice time on eight shifts. After slumping to start this regular season, he was sent to the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs for the first time, getting called back up in early December. He stuck around a little longer but ultimately managed just two assists in a 15-game stint. He was then sent back to Rockford, where he’s remained until today. His NHL stats for the 2015-16 season: 0 goals, 2 assists, minus-4 rating in 23 games.

With the IceHogs, Bickell found some of his scoring touch. He wound up with 15 goals, 16 assists and a plus-2 rating in 41 games. Of course, this might not mean anything once he gets back to the NHL, but hopefully his confidence is at least trending in the right direction.

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You know Bickell isn’t being called up to sit in the press box, so Q will probably get him out there against St. Louis on Thursday. That could be interesting, considering the Blackhawks would probably like to have more speed in the lineup against the Blues, and Bickell certainly doesn’t provide that. He does offer size, which can be useful against a rugged team like St. Louis, but that only goes so far.

It’ll be interesting to see where Bickell winds up in the lineup. He could form what would kindly be referred to as “a line” as a wing alongside Dennis Rasmussen and Dale Weise, with Brandon Mashinter mercifully hitting the press box and Teuvo Teravainen jumping up to play between Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane (as he did last night after Anisimov’s injury). I also wouldn’t be totally stunned to see Q try to put him alongside Andrew Ladd and Jonathan Toews, but I think this would be ill-advised. And considering that pair’s most-recent linemate, Richard Panik, tallied a goal last night, Q may not want to change that up just yet.

It sounds like all of these injured forwards and Crow could return for Saturday’s regular-season finale against Columbus, which would be a relatively soft open for all of them. Hossa seems to be the likeliest one to return sooner than that, Thursday against St. Louis. That leaves the Blackhawks in an interesting spot against the Blues, who they need to beat if they want to keep alive any chance of finishing better than third in the Central Division. Maybe Bickell comes out with fire and contributes offensively to a big win. Or maybe he fades into the background as he previously did. It’ll certainly be interesting to watch.

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