CALGARY, Alberta — Bryan Bickell didn’t take his Sunday benching as an insult or a slap in the face. He took it for what it was: a necessary call for a player whose play has been lackluster.
“It was frustrating but, the way my game’s been going, I feel like I deserved to sit out,” said Bickell, who was back in the lineup for Tuesday’s game against the Calgary Flames. “(Coach Joel Quenneville) wants to get me angry and mad on the ice and bring the physical game. I need to do more and get myself more into the game.”
Bickell’s been here before. The left wing, who’s coming off a tremendous postseason, was in the same predicament two seasons ago. He was struggling, he’d lost his confidence and Quenneville sat him. Bickell was back there on Sunday, benched when the Blackhawks hosted the Winnipeg Jets. Defenseman Mike Kostka took his spot on the third line.
Bickell doesn’t question the healthy scratch; he just wants to have the right on-ice response to it.
“It’s an example to me and the locker room that, no matter how many years you play here, you can find your way out of the lineup,” Bickell said. “I haven’t deserved to be (playing), but hopefully I can turn it around on this road trip.”
Quenneville is looking for that response from Bickell. He’s looking for that guy from the playoffs who wasn’t afraid to throw his body around on big hits, who wasn’t afraid to take that lethal wrist shot, who wasn’t afraid to play his game at all. It reaped tremendous results, be it for the team, Bickell’s individual stats or his finances — he signed that four-year, $16-million deal on the heels of that postseason. The game is there for Bickell. He just needs to find it.
“He needs to be physically involved in the game, be more direct in his play and stronger in the puck areas. You know he’s involved when he does those type of things; the puck follows him and he’ll be harder to play against,” Quenneville said. “If he does the right thing shift in and shift out, that’s what we’re looking for. He has speed, physicality and size. We just contribute to our team game and he’ll feel better about himself as well.”