Blackhawks' Bickell feeling stronger, Crawford improving

Blackhawks' Bickell feeling stronger, Crawford improving
December 22, 2013, 3:00 pm
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Bryan Bickell’s only played in two games since missing a month with a knee injury but the Chicago Blackahwks forward said he’s feeling pretty strong out there.

Bickell, who returned against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, said he’s adjusting to his knee brace and feeling good in every facet, from game shape to the physical side of his game.

“I think I’m in great shape right now,” he said. “I feel strong with hitting; there was more hitting against Vancouver and I felt comfortable. I feel like I was never out for a month.”

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Bickell’s minutes weren’t too high in these last two games, but that’s had more to do with the amount of power play and penalty kill minutes the Blackhawks had against the Predators and Canucks. As for his offensive production, Bickell would obviously like to do more. He had four goals in as many games in late October, not long after he was moved from the top line to the third, which seems to suit him more. He’s recorded just one point, however, since then – a goal against the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 10.

But Bickell is more concerned with playing an all-around game, including that physical one, and coach Joel Quenneville agrees.

“You make sure you bring the physicality to your game; the more intense the more involved he is,” Quenneville said. “He’s got a great shot, he goes to the high-traffic areas and should be able to finish some plays. We have a lot of guys who can score, but consistency is what we’re looking for in Bicks.”

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Crawford improving

Corey Crawford skated on his own today, the fourth consecutive day he’s hit the ice. Quenneville said the staff will assess where Crawford is after the break, but he expects the goaltender to practice following the Christmas holiday.

“He’s not that far away but he needs some practice, some real pace and shots, more exertion,” Quenneville said of Crawford, who suffered his lower-body injury on Dec. 8 against the Florida Panthers. “He’s getting out there early (to skate), but he still hasn’t seen live bodies and pucks.”

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Antti Raanta will start tomorrow night against the New Jersey Devils.

There’s been no progress for Nikolai Khabibulin (lower body).