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Don’t mess with success: Bickell on line with Toews, Kane

Updated: October 15, 2013 7:18AM



SOUTH BEND, Ind. — After becoming the breakout star of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, Bryan Bickell openly wondered what it would be like if he got a full season as a top-line left wing, skating alongside all-world players like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

Well, he’s going to get a chance to find out.

As Blackhawks training camp opened on Thursday, the line that reinvigorated the Hawks’ slumping offense in the Western Conference finals against Los Angeles, then again in the Final against Boston, was back together. Coach Joel Quenneville said he’ll “probably” start the season with that combination.

“You know Q, sometimes he changes it back and forth,” Bickell said. “But hopefully it starts out that way.”

While Bickell got a four-year, $16 million contract out of his nine-goal playoff performance, Kane reaped much of the rewards on the ice, breaking out of his slump in style with a hat trick in the decisive Game 5 against the Kings, and three more in Games 4 and 5 against the Bruins. Kane — who spent most of last season with Patrick Sharp and a rotating cast of characters at center — was happy to see the line kept together.

“It’s easy to play with them because they create so much space for you and get pucks back,” Kane said. “We were calling me the ‘benefish’ — the beneficiary of all their hard work because I would end up scoring the goals. Bickell played great in the playoffs. He’s one of the key parts of our lineup now, and I think he’s got to know that going into this season and know 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 the playoffs. That’s what’s expected of him now.”

Kane noncommittal

General manager Stan Bowman said last week that Toews and Kane would be with the Hawks “forever.” They each have two years left on their deals and are eligible for extensions July 1. But Kane said he and Toews are focused on camp, and then the season, and haven’t discussed anything beyond that.

“That’s what you hope for — that’s obviously the ultimate goal, to win championships and play for an organization like this,” Kane said. “But I’m still a young kid. I’m 24. I’m turning 25 this year, and to say what’s going to happen the rest of my career, I just don’t know. It’d be ideal to stay here, but we’ll cross that path when we get to it.”

Hossa healthy

Marian Hossa endured back pain and foot numbness thanks to a nerve issue in his back during the Stanley Cup Final but avoided back surgery over the summer thanks to some shots and strategic exercise. He looked spry on the ice Thursday and is cleared for contact in Friday’s scrimmages (only Michal Rozsival and Michal Handzus are not).

Hossa knows the back pain and extra training will be something he deals with the rest of his career.

“The rest of my life,” he said. “I have to be smart about it and do lots of stretching and exercises to help make it stronger.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkLazerus



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