Bryan Bickell benched for third period, overtime
BY SETH GRUEN Staff Reporter January 5, 2014 9:30PM
San Jose Sharks v Chicago Blackhawks
Updated: January 5, 2014 11:49PM
Despite all the scoring the Blackhawks’ top line provides, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa sometimes find themselves leaning on the often-overlooked third line for support.
They’ll tell you that one line never assumes the burden on a championship team. That’s probably the best example of the Hawks’ talent and depth.
On Sunday against the San Jose Sharks, the Hawks put out a third line of Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw and Kris Versteeg, who was moved back to the third line after coach Joel Quenneville moved left wing Brandon Saad to the second line.
But through much of the game, Quenneville mixed and matched on the line. Bickell, who missed 14 games with a knee injury, was benched for the third period and overtime. He played only nine shifts and had 5:20 of ice time.
“His all-around game,” Quenneville said. “I just think that there’s more there, whether it’s puck protection, recognition. Be more involved, more direct.”
Bickell hasn’t looked fully healthy since coming back. He has two points since returning to the lineup Dec. 17 and hasn’t brought the kind of physicality he should at 6-4, 233 pounds.
‘‘Every game is getting better,’’ Bickell said before the game. ‘‘It’s an injury that you never want, but it’s good to take time. I feel it was progress every day, every practice, every game. So as long as we’re winning, it feels good.’’
As expected, the Hawks reassigned goalie Jason LaBarbera to the Rockford IceHogs on Saturday. LaBarbera had been the backup to Antti Raanta while Corey Crawford was nursing a groin injury.
Raanta’s emergence in Crawford’s absence solidified his spot on the roster. There was some discussion as to whether Raanta would benefit more from being Rockford’s starter than Crawford’s backup. But Quenneville said Wednesday he was comfortable keeping Raanta with the Hawks.