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Quenneville putting onus on non-Olympians to get Blackhawks going

Chicago Blackhawks' Bryan Bickell (29) skates with puck against Phoenix Coyotes as teammate Andrew Shaw (65) skates behind during first

Chicago Blackhawks' Bryan Bickell (29) skates with the puck against the Phoenix Coyotes as teammate Andrew Shaw (65) skates behind during the first period in an NHL hockey game Friday Feb. 7, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Blackhawks 2-0. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) ORG XMIT: RFOTK213

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Updated: February 23, 2014 11:06PM



Bryan Bickell took full advantage of the Olympic break.

‘‘Oh, yeah, I got away,’’ Bickell said after the Blackhawks practiced for the first time since the break Sunday at Johnny’s IceHouse West. ‘‘Went to Cabo [Mexico] — enjoyed some sun and fishing with my wife and some friends; came back to Chicago and had a surprise birthday party for my wife — it was her 30th birthday; and I went to Dallas — Lake Fork for bass fishing. I kind of cleared my mind . . . I feel good. I feel rested. I feel energized. Mentally, I feel great now.’’

That’s exactly how coach Joel Quenneville hoped the Olympic break would play out for his non-Olympians: a nice break from hockey and a renewed vigor for the post-Olympic run. With 10 players returning from the Olympics, Quenneville clearly has put the onus on the others to take the lead.

‘‘It’s important to us,’’ Quenne-ville said. ‘‘We exited the Phoenix game [before the break] with a message for the guys that aren’t going that when we get back, we want those guys to lead the charge and make sure they get rest, [that] we’re going to rely on you guys to not carry the load, but let’s make sure we’re going to get some energy off of you guys and make sure you’re ready to play when we get back.’’

Quenneville will give his Olympic players time to recuperate. In fact, the six players who participated in the gold-medal game Sunday — Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp for Canada and Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marcus Kruger and Johnny Oduya for Sweden — might not return to the ice until the morning skate before the post-Olympic opener Thursday against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The Hawks play the Penguins in a ‘‘Stadium Series’’ game Saturday night at Soldier Field.

Those who finished earlier also will ease their way back into it, Quenneville said. Patrick Kane (United States) was done on Saturday. Marian Hossa and Michal Handzus (Slovakia) played their final Olympic game on Tuesday; Michal Rozsival (Czech Republic) was finished Wednesday. Rozsival was at Johnny’s but did not dress.

‘‘We’ll see how they are when they get back and gauge it,’’ Quenne-ville said. ‘‘I would expect they’ll need a couple of days to enjoy it and celebrate, and when we get them back together, I’m sure the focus will [be] in the right place. But a break for them off the ice will probably be healthy, as well.’’

The Olympics, of course, split allegiances in the Hawks’ locker room. But everybody was happy — in varying degrees — for Toews, Keith and Sharp winning the gold.

‘‘That was pretty special to see Duncan and Toews win another gold medal and seeing Sharp winning his [first] gold medal,’’ goaltender Corey Crawford said. ‘‘I think everyone here was really pleased with how they played.’’

Kris Versteeg woke up at 5 a.m. to watch the gold-medal game, which started at 6 a.m.

‘‘I wouldn’t wake up for a game at 5 o’clock if I wasn’t proud,’’ Versteeg said. ‘‘I don’t wake up for any hockey at 5 o’clock. I could barely wake up for my own hockey as a kid at 5 o’clock.’’

Brandon Bollig, who’s from St. Charles, Mo., said he did not watch it.

‘‘Especially being an American, I was going to get my rest,’’ he said.

But he was happy for all of his teammates who participated in the Games.

‘‘It was great to see all those guys, especially playing against each other and getting their licks on each other, which I’m sure they’ve been looking forward to for quite a while. It was an unfortunate turnout for the Americans, but it was great to see six of our guys get medals.’’

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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