For the first time in a long time this season, the Chicago Blackhawks have 13 forwards on their roster, and head coach Joel Quenneville is making the most of the ability to tinker with his lineup.
Over the past few games, he has switched out Michal Handzus and Bryan Bickell in the lineup, and the results have spoken for themselves. Handzus has looked much fresher during his time on the penalty kill, and he will surely reap the benefits of the increased rest when he heads to the Olympics and as the NHL postseason draws closer.
As for Bickell, he too has benefitted from the rest, but in different ways. A few weeks ago, Quenneville said that he needed "more" out of Bickell, and despite only getting into the lineup sporadically over the past few games, Bickell has tried to make the most out of his limited time. In Monday’s win against the Los Angeles Kings, Bickell played just a shade over eight minutes, and he ended up with a goal on a gorgeous 3-on-1 rush with Andrew Shaw and Patrick Kane.
That play is a perfect crystallization of the argument that Bickell supporters the whole web-over have been making for weeks and months about his struggles. Put Bickell with teammates who are able to skate effectively, and you make him a more viable option both in terms of scoring and in deploying his physicality. Bickell played mostly with Shaw and Brandon Saad on Monday night, but it was in that moment when Kane was on the ice with him that Bickell flourished most.
If Quenneville decides to put Bickell back in the lineup for a second straight game against the Anaheim Ducks, he would be well-advised to get him some looks with Kane on the ice. Kane’s speed allows Bickell more room to make his mark on the game, and the duo usually seems to work well together as we saw in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. Against a team like Anaheim, their chemistry could be especially important.