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Bickell's gone wild against Wild in past

4/28/2015

CHICAGO -- If you have tweeted at Chicago Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell reminding him how well he’s played against the Minnesota Wild in the past, he’s gotten your message.

“I’ve seen a whole bunch of Twitters and all that stuff, all these stats and things like that,” Bickell said Monday.

The statistics are something to behold. To truly comprehend them, it’s important to first go over his numbers against the rest of the league. He has scored 35 goals in 212 regular-season and playoff games against everyone else during the last three seasons. Against the Wild, he’s scored 15 goals in 23 games.

So, why is that? Bickell can’t explain it.

“No, I can’t,” Bickell said matter-of-factly. “I will have to go through video to see how the goals went in, to see what worked.”

What worked was a variety of things. Four of the goals came from shots from the left circle. Two of those left-circle shots were off rushes. Three other goals were empty-netters. Two others were scored by redirecting pucks in front of the net. Two more were scored after he was set up with passes near the net. One goal was scored when he finished a 2-on-1 breakaway. One more went in when he just threw the puck on net from a wide, right angle.

Part of Bickell’s success against the Wild, especially in the playoffs, can be credited to opportunity. Despite spending most of the regular season on the third line, Bickell has often been placed by Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville in a top-6 role in the playoffs.

That will likely happen again when the Blackhawks and Wild meet in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals. Bickell skated with Brad Richards and Patrick Kane on the second line during practice Monday.

Bickell has had a chance to play with Kane at times in the playoffs in recent years. Kane had primary assists on three of Bickell’s playoff goals the previous two seasons.

“I think Patrick sees the ice really well,” Bickell said. “He makes plays and creates ice where you don’t think they’re there. You always have to be ready with him because you think he doesn’t have a play and all of a sudden the puck is on your stick. To get in front of the net and be ready will be crucial to help with that line.”

Providing that net-front presence is something the Blackhawks will especially seek from Bickell in the series. Quenneville expects scoring chances around the net to be difficult to come by against the Wild, and they’ll be vital against hot-handed goaltender Devan Dubnyk.

“It’s a factor,” Quenneville said. “Getting to the net against this team is what makes him so effective. The quality of the chances are limited as well. Just getting shot on net sometimes is an achievement. We’re still going to need a net-front presence. No matter who you are, you have to get there and there’s a willingness to try to get there so let’s make sure we’re persevering in that area because that could be the differential.”

Bickell didn’t score in the first round against the Nashville Predators and had his streak of scoring in nine consecutive series snapped. Despite not producing with a goal, Bickell earned the praise of Quenneville in other ways.

“I thought he had a good first round,” Quenneville said. “I thought he did a lot of good things. I think he was skating extremely well. I thought that physical presence was there. He didn’t have the production that we’ve seen in the playoffs in the past, but I think you play like that with Bick he brings other elements that still make a contribution to your game. He was close around the net and he was a factor with the overtime goal [in Game 5] it was pretty big the other day with his net-front presence. That’s what we’re looking for.”

And, it’s what Bickell is looking to provide.

“That falls more into my hands,” Bickell said. “I’m not a Kaner kind of player. I’m not quite as skilled or dream to be. But for us to get to those series is going to be one of those muck and get the puck to the net, create havoc in front because Dubnyk has been outstanding since he’s been there. Hopefully we can get to him early.”