Bickell wants to cash in on first-line status
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After scoring 9 goals in the playoffs and helping lead the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup, what does Bryan Bickell do for an encore?
Anything the Hawks ask him to do, that's what.
Bickell, who hit the jackpot when he was rewarded with a four-year, $16 million contract after his big postseason, will start the year where he ended it — skating at left wing in the first line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
While Bickell says he is willing to fill any role, the Hawks are paying him big money to be a difference-making, first-line power forward.
"Bicks is one of the key parts of our lineup now," Kane said. "He's got to know that going into the season. He's got to realize that he's not counted on to be a third-line player or a checking line guy. He's got to do what he did in playoffs. That's what's expected of him now."
Bickell knows there is pressure that comes with moving up in class, so to speak.
"There's more pressure on my shoulders, but I feel from where I was a couple years ago my game is getting better and better," he said. "My mental game is where it needs to be and I know what I need to do.
"I'm happy to be back here with the contract I have and I'm just looking forward to the challenge. I know there's going to be some bumpy spots down the road, but if I stick with it everything will be fine."
Bickell knows all about bumpy roads. His path to the first line with the Hawks was littered with potholes.
He was the lowest-paid forward on the team last year before coming alive in the playoffs when he was both dominating and productive.
"The regular season was pretty good, but in the postseason it just kind of took off for me," Bickell said. "The level of game and the physicality of the game in the playoffs just fell into my hands. I just have to think back to what I did then and what I need to do now every game.
"I know it's a long and grueling season and some games are not going to be the same (as in the playoffs), but I have to have the same mindset."
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville believes Bickell should have a bigger year playing full time with Toews and Kane.
"When you play with the guys he's going to be playing with, there are going to be rewards from going in front of the net," Quenneville said. "He's got as quick stick as well and he can make plays off the rush, but he knows if he goes to the front of the net there will be a lot of the second opportunities that he can bury.
"He can be that power forward that everybody looks for and loves to have. Those guys are really hard to find. One thing that makes them stand out is they bring it every game."
It's certainly a new role for Bickell, who in the past came to training camp wondering if he would play on the third or fourth line.
"My game came from where it was a couple years ago to where I was in and out of the lineup to now where I have confidence to play any position coach wants me," Bickell said. "I've got a have that confidence and mindset going into every game to know what it takes and what I need to do."
• Follow Tim's hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.
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