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Hawks winger Bryan Bickell could return Friday against Canucks

Bryan Bickell JustBraun

Bryan Bickell, Justin Braun

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Saturday

Blackhawks
at Maple Leafs

The facts: 6 p.m., Ch. 9, 720-AM.

Updated: January 15, 2014 6:15AM



Blackhawks winger Bryan Bickell practiced with the team Friday for the first time since he suffered an apparent left-knee injury in mid-November.

No definite return date has been set, but coach Joel Quenneville mentioned the Hawks’ home game next Friday against the Canucks as the logical option. The Hawks, who begin a three-games-in-four-days stretch Saturday in Toronto, will have some practice time before playing the Canucks.

“Bickell looked pretty good,’’ Quenneville said after practice at Johnny’s Ice House. ‘‘Hopefully, he’s not too far away. We have three in four nights. Hopefully, he can play right after that.’’

Bickell, who has missed 12 games since the injury Nov. 19 at Colorado, stayed on the ice long after his teammates to regain his on-ice conditioning.

“I feel great,’’ the 6-4, 233-pound physical but skilled forward said. “First practice with the team in a while. It feels like I’m getting stronger and better every day.’’

While disappointed at not being able to play in Toronto, the Ontario native said he’s onboard with not rushing back at this point.

“I was looking forward to playing back home in Toronto,’’ he said, adding that off-ice conditioning is not the same as skating. “I wish I was playing [there]. But I think that in a week or two, that will give me more time to make sure it’s right to come back in. Game-time situations are a lot quicker pace.’’

Bickell, who will remain in Chicago to continue his rehab, had a breakout postseason last spring, when he had nine goals and eight assists and was rewarded with a four-year, $16 million contract.

Even though the Hawks, who’ve won their last three games since a rare three-game winless stretch, have been very solid, they’re looking forward to Bickell’s return.

“When he’s healthy, we’ll put him back in there, and he’ll play his regular role,’’ Quenneville said. “There are a lot of [line-combination] options that we’ll look at.’’

Bickell’s combination of size and skill adds another dimension to the team with the NHL’s best record.

“He’s got some speed, some physicality,’’ Quenneville said. “He has a nice set of hands, a big shot. He’s a net-front presence. You appreciate him not just making us a bigger team, but [a team with] more physicality.’’

Bickell’s physicality also is appreciated by captain Jonathan Toews.

“Bickell is a big boy,’’ Toews said. “To have him throwing his body around, as long as he’s healthy and not rushing anything — it’s a blessing to have talent like that coming back into the lineup.’’



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