CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell didn’t feel he got enough contact against the Nashville Predators in his first game returning from a knee injury to be confident he was back to normal.
The Vancouver Canucks took care of that for him in his second game.
Bickell’s entire body, including his left knee, experienced receiving and giving hits throughout the course of Friday’s game against the Canucks. Afterward, Bickell was sure he could play like his old self.
“I feel strong with hitting,” Bickell said after practice on Sunday. “Against Vancouver, there was a lot more hitting. I felt comfortable. I feel like I was never out for a month.
“I think moving there’s times it’s sore, but I know it’s going to happen. I just have to play through it, and it’s going to get better as the time goes on.”
Aside from the minor soreness and adjusting to wearing a brace, Bickell said he has felt good in his first two games back after missing 14 games with the injury.
Bickell is still trying to get back into the rhythm he had prior to the injury, but the two games weren’t ideal to do that in either. There were a total of 20 penalties during those two games, and Bickell’s minutes were affected by that because he’s not on the power play or penalty kill. He played 9:40 against the Predators and 10:30 against the Canucks.
“The games have been kind of slow with the penalties,” Bickell said. “I feel great. I feel like I’m back into things. To get this rolling, I know we have one more game before the break, but to get back the chemistry and get the lines sorted out is important.”
Part of that is Bickell again becoming more of an offensive threat. He displayed his offensive potential last season with 17 points in the playoffs and was on pace prior to his injury to score about 20 goals this season.
Bickell said he realized there’s no pressure to produce now because of the offensive power in the lineup, but he’d like to contribute more.
“We got a lot of scoring in here in our locker room,” said Bickell, who had one shot on goal in the last two games. “You can’t go wrong with that. But it’ll be nice to score. Everyone wants to score. But to do the little things to help this team win is the ultimate goal.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville’s hope was for Bickell to first be that physical presence, and that to lead to more offensive chances.
“I would expect him to make sure you bring that physicality to your game,” Quenneville said. “I think the more intense he is and more involved he is in that aspect, (it) seems he has the puck more. But he’s got a great shot. He’s got a big body, goes to the high-traffic areas and should be able to finish some plays.
“To quantify him as saying this is what we’re looking for, this amount of goals, with him we expect him to be consistently producing, and that consistency with being physical will only compliment that part of his game. We got a lot of guys who can score, but that consistency is what we’re looking for from Bick.”
Crawford progressing: Goaltender Corey Crawford has skated four consecutive days and could return to practice the week of Dec. 29, Quenneville said. Crawford has been out with a lower-body injury since Dec. 8.
“He’s not that far away,” Quenneville said. “But he needs some practicing and some real pace and shots. Let’s get a little more exertion. Getting out there before, but you still haven’t seen live bodies and pucks moving.”
Quenneville said he did not have a timetable on goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin's return yet. Khabibulin hasn't played since suffering a lower-body injury on Nov. 16.
HBO’s 24/7 series: Quenneville didn’t give a glowing review of HBO’s “24/7 Red Wings/Maple Leafs: Road to the NHL Winter Classic” on Sunday.
“It was all right,” said Quenneville, who saw the first episode.
Quenneville was asked if he was glad the Blackhawks didn’t have to participate in the all-access series when they had the Winter Classic at Wrigley Field in 2009. Quenneville’s answer was, “Exactly. Good timing.”