Olympic break just what Bickell needed
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter February 24, 2014 8:20PM
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 17: Bryan Bickell #29 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates around Ben Lovejoy #6 of the Anaheim Ducks on his way to scoring a third period goal at the United Center on January 17, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Ducks 4-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 181113407
Updated: February 24, 2014 9:58PM
The effects of the Olympic break remain to be seen.
Those who didn’t play could be rested or rusty. Those who did play could be in a great hockey rhythm or wiped out from the intensity of the competition and the jet lag from a long flight home from Sochi, Russia.
But already, the break appears to be just what Bryan Bickell needed.
‘‘I think it helped him,’’ Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Monday after practicing with 13 players — including the first Olympian to show up, defenseman Michal Rozsival — at Johnny’s IceHouse West. ‘‘The last two days is the best I’ve seen him skate here all year.
‘‘Health-wise, he hasn’t been in the right place all year, coming off that injury. [But] he trended well at the end of the last road trip, where he was playing the best that we’ve seen all year. When he skates like that, good things are going to happen for him.’’
Bickell’s seasonlong slump has been one of the few disappointments of the Hawks’ otherwise satisfying and promising post-Cup season. Bickell, who will turn 28 on March 9, has eight goals and 10 points with a minus-7 rating in 43 games. A leg injury that forced him to miss 14 games complicated matters.
After Bickell was a healthy scratch in three of four games, he showed signs of snapping out of it in the last three games of the road trip that preceded the Olympic break, including a goal in a victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Bickell did not want to stop the momentum. But he feels so good now — mentally and physically — that the 15-day break might have been the best thing for him.
‘‘I kind of wished there wasn’t a break — my game was going the right way in the couple of games before [it],’’ he said. ‘‘The break helped me clear my thoughts and get a fresh start. I just needed to stop thinking and play hockey — that’s the most important thing. I’ve been doing it my whole life. There are going to be ups and downs.
‘‘The first part of the season was tough for me. Then getting injured, it took a toll on me mentally. It gets in the back of your head. But the break was great. I feel energized and fired up to play hockey again.’’