Chicago Blackhawks send Bickell back to Rockford
The second question Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville received after Sunday's morning skate was about Bryan Bickell, whom the Hawks reassigned to Rockford about an hour later.
As Quenneville has done much of the season, he talked about how Bickell must play with more physicality, more urgency. The coach spat out over 120 words and went on for more than 45 seconds, but it was the final 10 syllables and the final second that said it all.
"Bottom line, it comes down to performance," Quenneville said.
And Bickell's performance certainly hasn't been at a level that coaches, teammates and fans expect out of a player making $4.5 million. He has yet to score a goal and was a healthy scratch in the four games before Sunday's 5-2 victory over Montreal at the United Center.
Even when Bickell, who was placed on waivers Saturday and cleared, was getting playing time, his ice time often was less than seven minutes.
Teammate Andrew Shaw empathized with Bickell's plight.
"You talk to him as much as you can," Shaw said, then adding: "Sometimes (though) you want to be left alone, and you've got to give him space as well. When he needs someone to talk to, I'm there for him."
This will be Bickell's second stint in Rockford, where he had 7 goals and 7 assists in 12 games before the Hawks recalled him in early December.
Puck stops here:
Corey Crawford's strong play continued Sunday night in the Blackhawks' 5-2 win over Montreal. The Hawks' goalie stopped 27 of 29 shots as the team rattled off their 11th straight victory, tying the franchise record set at the end of their 21-0-3 start to the 2012-13 campaign.
"It's a good feeling in the dressing room," said Marin Hossa, who had an empty-net goal and 2 assists. "Everybody's playing kind of loose. Everybody understand the system now. Crow's been so strong for us."
Hossa added that the biggest key to the Hawks' run has been their commitment to playing solid team defense. The numbers certainly back him up as they've allowed just 13 goals over the last nine games.
Back in action:
After missing two games with a lower-body injury, rookie defenseman Erik Gustafsson returned to the lineup Sunday against Montreal.
Gustafsson said he banged his knee into the boards in the Hawks' win over Nashville last week.
"It was good to sit down," he said. "It feels good out there now."
The 23-year-old Gustafsson showed off his offensive prowess once again by feeding Richard Panik for the Hawks' first goal in their 5-2 victory over the Canadiens. He has 8 assists and a plus-12 rating in just 15 games.
The Rockford IceHogs have won four of their last five games to improve to 23-10-2-3. Their last win was a 3-0 decision over Stockton on Saturday in which Vinnie Hinostroza, Ville Pokka and Pierre-Cedric Labrie scored. Rockford hosts Lake Erie today at 1 p.m. … In the last 11 games, Duncan Keith has 3 goals and 8 assists.