Bryan Bickell expects this to take some time.
The Chicago Blackhawks’ forward is coming off a knee injury that sidelined him from Nov. 19 to until his return on Dec. 17 in Nashville. And prior to the Blackhawks’ shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks, Bickell felt he was making progress.
“Every game’s getting better,” he said. “It’s an injury you never want but it’s going to take time. I feel there’s progress every day, every practice, every game.”
But progress wasn’t evident on Sunday night, when Bickell played for just over five minutes against the Sharks, a big, physical team against which his presence would’ve been welcomed. Coach Joel Quenneville said after the game where Bickell needed to improve.
“Just his all-around game,” Quenneville said. “There’s more there, whether it’s puck protection or recognition. Be more involved, more direct.”
Bickell entered the 2013-14 season with much to prove. Following a tremendous individual playoff performance, Bickell signed a new four-year deal with a cap hit of $4 million a season. He started this season fine, but wasn’t clicking with the top line like he had during the playoffs. He improved with a move to the third line, collecting goals in four consecutive games.
But now he’s coming off a left knee injury, which requires him to wear a brace. That’s an adjustment, to be sure. Quenneville, talking about Bickell prior to the game, acknowledged that.
“He hasn’t played the way he did certainly last year in the playoffs, but hopefully he starts progressing here,” he said. “I still think he brings a lot to our team with his size, speed and shot, but we need a little bit more out of him. But it’s part of the process of getting up to speed.”
Bickell will continue to adjust and try to get back to his spring playing level. As the season grows longer and the grind tougher, the Blackhawks will need him to do so.