Bryan Bickell has made his presence known throughout these playoffs.
The Blackhawks forward’s main duty is to be physical and that was evident in some timely and crushing hits against Detroit. But his goals, five of them and counting thus far this postseason, have been a bonus. And that combination, along with the stronger physical presence the Los Angeles Kings will bring, has earned Bickell a line promotion.
Bickell was on the Blackhawks’ top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa Friday afternoon, and he’ll be there again Saturday when the Blackhawks host the Kings in Game 1 of their Western Conference Final series.
“He’s a big body and he’s shown some poise with the puck. He’s getting better and better as the playoffs go along,” Toews said. “It’s no coincidence why he’s putting up the points he has been. He’s been bringing it every game and we want to keep that going.”
Bickell has been a noticeable presence throughout the postseason. It was more goals at first. But a few key hits, including one on Niklas Kronwall in Game 5, rounded out his game and gave the Blackhawks the edge they needed to hold off the Red Wings.
Head coach Joel Quenneville said Bickell has earned this opportunity.
“It’s not just his production but physically he’s been engaged,” he said. “He has some speed, he’s had a lot of puck time. When he did get the opportunity to move up he’s done an excellent job. It gives us more size and presence.”
Hossa said the three felt comfortable together at today’s practice.
“We’ll see how we start; right now we’re ready to go,” Hossa said. “For sure, he’s one of our bigger guys [with a physical presence] and he did an excellent job in the last series.”
Bickell will get a big opportunity here. His chief job is to make sure, against a physical Kings team that the Blackhawks’ stars don’t get pushed around. But if he gets his net presence going for some goals, so be it.
“Obviously with the shot he has and ability he has to score goals and tight too, we’ll try to get him the puck as much as we can. He’s going to do his thing other than that,” Toews said. “He’ll be physical, throw his body around; it should be fun.”