Maybe this isn't Bryan Bickell's final chance with the Blackhawks, but the left winger knows he might be running out of opportunities to show last season was no fluke.
After sitting out five games because of ineffective play, Bickell will be back in the lineup for Wednesday's key Western Conference showdown with Minnesota.
Bickell went the whole month of November without a point and lost his edge from a physical standpoint. He has 50 hits in 24 games, but coach Joel Quenneville says he needs to see more.
"With his speed and his size and his presence he should be, whether it's more hits, more of a factor," Quenneville said. "We saw that a lot over the last year and I think we need to see that more consistently in his game. If he does that, then he's a player you can use in all situations and you have a real appreciation what he brings to our lineup as well."
Bickell, who had 17 goals and 37 points last season and 2 more goals in 5 playoff game, admits he has lost his focus from a mental standpoint but has learned from his time on the sidelines.
"I have to pick up my work ethic and show the coach I want to be in the lineup and stay in the lineup," Bickell said. "I need to be game in and game out the way I can be, physical and contribute to the team any way I can.
"Being out, I wasn't playing my best. Through the last couple weeks I've been realizing what I need to do to stay focused and be ready for every shift every game."
It has been a frustrating few weeks for Bickell, who is minus-8 with just 3 goals. Bickell showed a big wrist shot last season that we haven't seen much of this year.
"It's still in there," Bickell said. "The shots haven't been going in like last year."
In addition to missing games, he has been working hard after practices and morning skates with assistant coach Mike Kitchen.
"I know I'll be in better shape," Bickell said. "Kitchen, he likes the bag skates and he's been putting it to me and John (Scott) since we've been out. I know I don't have any more bag skates with Kitch because it's not pleasant."
Bickell earned the chance to get back on the ice after rookie Ben Smith was returned to Rockford on Monday.
"Unfortunately he's gone down, but I'll take the opportunity and do the best I can do with it," Bickell said.
Quenneville said Smith was sent down to play more in offensive situations.
"We want him playing more," Quenneville said. "His upside is offensively, and I think not playing the quantity and quality that we would like or he would like, with having an extra guy around here we're in a position to get him back there and get his game back to where he finished (last) season."
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