Blackhawks' Bickell finding his groove

Bryan Bickell had nine goals and 17 points in 23 games in the 2013 playoffs. (Rob Grabowski/USA...

Bryan Bickell had nine goals and 17 points in 23 games in the 2013 playoffs. (Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY Sports)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:10 PM ET

CHICAGO - The goals have been hard to come by for Chicago Blackhawks winger Bryan Bickell.

Certainly not at the expected rate following last year’s playoff breakout.

That doesn’t mean Bickell’s game has been silent.

The sound of Blackhawks fans cheering a goal by Bickell — which they did nine times en route to the team’s 2013 Stanley Cup title — have been replaced by the crashing of Bickell and St. Louis Blues opponents into each other.

“It gets me in the game. Goals and points will come,” Bickell said Wednesday after the morning skate in preparation for his team’s Game 4 clash with the Blues.

“I need to keep that up.”

Bickell had a breakout spring a year ago, netting nine goals and 17 points in 23 games. He parlayed it into a four-year, $16-million US contract.

This season, though, was a letdown for the 6-foot-4, 233-pound left winger.

He struggled in part due to a knee injury and managed just 11 goals and 15 points in 59 games.

He admittedly struggled with his confidence, too.

“To have that lack of confidence sets you back a couple of steps,” Bickell said. “Having confidence in yourself is a big thing in any sport. It helps you go a long way. I think it set me back a little bit, but where it is now, that’s important.”

Bickell failed to hit the scoresheet in the first three games of the series, but has provided seemingly more hits than the Beatles, 21 according to the stats keepers heading into Wednesday’s clash.

He’s also now playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

“He’s making smart, simple plays, using his body, making guys aware of his presence out there. Once he’s doing that, the chances and the goals are going to come,” Toews said. “You’re seeing him play better and better as we go along. Not to build up any hype or anything, I think if he keeps going like that, he could be just as effective as last year.”

“I don’t think anybody expected him to be that player the rest of his career, what we saw in the playoffs,” head coach Joel Quenneville said. “Some people might have said, ‘Where was that?’ He has the ability to be that type of guy. Putting it all tog ether consistently game in and game out is something we’d love to see, but certainly the trend that he showed us here recently is he’s on track to have a big playoff for us and make a big impact on his line and to our team game.”

Especially if Bickell keeps on smashing and bashing.

“Playoff hockey, I think it suits my game. It gets me into it,” he said. “You can see your teammates and the opponents hitting more and it gets me fired up. It gets me playing my game, being physical, getting to the front of the net, doing stuff like that.”

MORROW TO THE MATT

The revolving door that keeps sending St. Louis Blues players in and out of the lineup due to injuries and healing from them has now spun Brenden Morrow out for the rest of the series.

Morrow, who missed the final three regular-season games due a foot injury, skated in the first and third games of this series.

The veteran left winger collected 13 goals and 25 points in 71 regular season games.

HAMMERED BY PUCKS

It’s with great regularity Blackhawks defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson goes to the bench in obvious pain after blocking a shot.

You can’t help but wonder when the time will come Hjalmarsson doesn’t return to the ice a short time later. At least Quenneville should be worried of that scenario.

“He has blocked so many hard shots and key shots that however it’s going to turn out, it’s not going to slow him down. He’s a warrior,” Quenneville said. “I’m sure he has more than his share of bruises on top of bruises.”

Hjalmarsson, who was part of Sweden’s Olympic team blocked 14 blocks in the first three outings of the series, a big reason the Blues power play struggled in those games.

“We’ve had a lot of penalty kills and it’s desperate times in the playoffs. You really want to be able to do everything you can to prevent them to score,” Hjalmarsson said.

Still, not every player is cut out to block shots.

“I’ve always been like that since I was a kid. I always hate to lose and I try to do everything I can to prevent goals being score when I’m on the ice,” he said. “Usually that means you have to block a couple shots.”

LET THE GAMES BEGIN

The first couple of games of this series included all kinds of nastiness, peaking with the check by Chicago’s Brent Seabrook on Blues’ captain David Backes and the war of words which followed.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock figures fans shouldn’t expect things to overheat like that the rest of the way.

“Both teams know what’s at stake now. Message sending is over,” Hitchcock said. “That’s why you see so much play whistle-to-whistle. I think both teams are living in fear that one of these power plays is gonna get rocking and rolling.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SunRandySportak


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