Will Bryan Bickell turn it on for Hawks in playoffs again?
The NHL playoffs are right around the corner, which is usually the time Bryan Bickell awakens from hibernation to hunt big goals in the postseason for the Blackhawks.
At least, that's what the Hawks are hoping will happen.
Yet again, Bickell has underwhelmed with in goal and point production. Through 77 games, he has 13 goals and 13 assists to go with a plus-3 rating and team-high 195 hits. Those aren't terrible numbers. They're just not what you'd expect from a 6-foot-4, 222-pound power forward who has terrorized opposing goaltenders the past two playoffs.
It takes a toll physically to have that kind of impact, which Bickell said is part of the issue. Now, with three big games left in the regular season, it's time to start playing for keeps.
"(In the) playoffs you put everything out there for your teammates, just to try to get the win," Bickell said prior to the Hawks' 2-1 loss to the Blues on Sunday. "It's a crucial time of the year. Regular season is (almost) done with, and now it's a new season. We just need to amp it up. I need to, too."
After helping the Hawks win the 2013 Stanley Cup with 9 goals in 23 playoff games, coach Joel Quenneville uttered the term "30 goals," as a possibility for Bickell when asked about expectations for him last season.
He didn't come close to that threshold, and this season the expectations weren't nearly as lofty for the regular season. Bickell's had flashes of brilliance this season, but each time lapsed in an apparent slumber offensively.
This, however, is his time to shine. The question is whether he can just flip a switch to turn it on again. It's not the playoffs yet, but the Hawks have three games left this week that all could have playoff implications. Bickell knows what that means.
"We need to get into (playoff mode) now," he said. "We don't want to wait two or three games into the playoffs to amp our level of game up. For me to be physical and to get things going, I enjoy this time of year for a reason. It's a new season coming in a week."
Quenneville has noticed an uptick in Bickell's play already. Apparently, his inner bear is stirring and hungry.
"He's progressing," Quenneville said. "He's had some games where he looks like he's showing he's there or he's coming out of it. He's a threat to be an impact power forward we like."
The Hawks didn't practice Monday, so there was no health update on defenseman Kimmo Timonen. Following Sunday's game against the Blues, Quenneville said Timonen was day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Blues forward Ryan Reaves crunched Timonen into the boards with a hit from behind midway through the first period, and the veteran blueliner's head smacked hard into the glass. After giving Reaves a couple retaliatory whacks, Timonen left the game and didn't return.
The Hawks are carrying eight defensemen after recently signing college free agent Michael Paliotta, but it's unclear if Timonen's injury will prompt Paliotta's NHL debut Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild. David Rundblad is the other option.