Bickell's declining play leads to healthy scratch again

CHICAGO -- Bryan Bickell has been here before.

Bickell’s game has tailed off for the Chicago Blackhawks late in the regular seasons in recent years, and he’s needed a strong wake-up call from coach Joel Quenneville to get him going again. And that’s where Bickell is now. Displeased with Bickell’s performance, Quenneville will make Bickell a healthy scratch against the New York Rangers on Sunday for the first time this season.

“I don’t think it should be accepted easily, but that’s where we’re at,” Quenneville said after the team’s optional morning skate on Sunday. “We all know the games get bigger and more meaningful and he seems to rise to that challenge. We expect him to come back and make a big contribution because we need him.

“I think [it’s based] definitely on performance. We have some options on well. I just think that consistency is a thing that we talk about a lot, and we want to make sure there’s a contribution, game in and game out, that can make him effective and us be a stronger team.”

Bickell didn’t disagree with Quenneville’s decision. Bickell said he had gotten away from playing his style of game.

“I just get too comfortable, I think, and get out of my game and not play the way I need to play to be successful,” said Bickell, who was put through a strenuous workout Sunday. “I need to be physical and I haven’t been. I just need to focus on what I need to do better.

“I was just trending the wrong way the last couple weeks, couple months, to where I should be trending up and playing the right way and play in my game and not do too much. It just seems like this happens every year for me. I think when I come out of this it’s better for me and better for the team.”

Quenneville sat Bickell for a couple games in late January last season to get him motivated as well. Bickell was more consistent late in the season and played a key role again in the playoffs. He had 11 goals in the regular season and seven goals in the playoffs last season. He currently has 11 goals and 24 points in 65 games.

Bickell thinks he needs to learn from the past again.

“You can probably look at back the last couple years and take clips of when I talked to you before ... just stay in the picture and start small and then kind of work my confidence into the bigger picture,” Bickell said. “You stay positive and not get down on yourself. I know I can play and be a big piece of this puzzle. I just need to focus and get better.

“Emotionally, it’s tough. You want to play and do the best that you can at crucial times when the team is scratching to get points. Tonight’s a big test for the team. I got to watch and think what I need to do better.”