Bryan Bickell stood in front of the media throng, steam rising from him after his lengthy workout/skate in a very chilly Johnny’s IceHouse West.
With his left knee on the mend, it’s now more about the Chicago Blackhawks winger getting game ready – and that means some punishing skates.
“(Mike) Kitchen and Jamie (Kompon) are probably biting their nails waiting for me to get some more bag skates in,” Bickell said with a grin.
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The really tough part for Bickell is over, however, as he’s just about recovered from the injury that’s sidelined him since Nov. 19. Coach Joel Quenneville hopes Bickell can return on Dec. 20, when the Blackhawks host the Vancouver Canucks. Bickell said he just wants to make sure he’s ready.
“Hopefully (I’m back) as soon as possible; wish I was playing tomorrow. In a week or two, give it more time to make sure it’s right to get back in,” Bickell said. “I’ve been practicing and skating, but game-time situations are at a lot faster and quicker pace. We’ll just make sure it’s right.”
The Blackhawks welcomed Bickell back into the fold on Friday.
“It’s good to see Bicks,” Jonathan Toews said. “Injuries happen. We’ve found a way to win games without key players before. But when you get a guy like Bicks back in the lineup, it always helps. So we’re looking forward to that.”
Bickell will likely fit back into the lineup on the Blackhawks’ third line. It’s where he was finding scoring success, and it just seems the natural place for him right now. He and Shaw have had good chemistry these past few seasons. Regardless, options are there. Quenneville said Kris Versteeg or Brandon Saad could move to the right side in some of those options.
“He’ll play his regular role, play those type of minutes that he and we are accustomed to,” Quenneville said. “We’ll have options for lines. Whether he’ll be with Steeger or not, we have a lot of options.”
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Certainly, there’s on aspect that Bickell brings that the Blackhawks could use more of this season.
“Hopefully I can come in and bring physical game,” Bickell said. “There are some games you can see we need it, but our speed takes over. When I do come back, I’ll try to bring that.”
The Blackhawks’ health continues to improve — well, outside of their goaltending net, anyway. The Blackhawks will soon have all their forward options available. They’ll have one of their core players back in the lineup.
“I feel great. I feel like I’m getting stronger every day,” Bickell said. “I don’t know the exact timetable when I’m back. But hopefully when I get back I can help.”
Corey Crawford will not take to the ice this weekend but Quenneville said the Blackhawks will reassess where he is early next week. Quenneville said they’re still looking at 2-3 weeks for Crawford’s timetable.
Nikolai Khabubulin is still not ready to start skating.