Bryan Bickell back after bout with vertigo; van Riemsdyk in, too

SHARE Bryan Bickell back after bout with vertigo; van Riemsdyk in, too

Bryan Bickell hasn’t played since the first period of Game 7 of the Western Conference final. (AP Photo)

Bryan Bickell thought he was just tired, maybe a little light-headed from all the cross-country flights. He’d feel good one moment, awful the next. There were no obvious triggers, no clear-cut cause. He even passed his concussion tests.

“The day before Game 7 in Anaheim, I was just like, ‘What’s going on? What’s going on?’” Bickell said. “I thought maybe the travel. I was talking to a couple of guys and they were saying, ‘Yeah, I feel the same.’ Then come game time, I was like — I couldn’t go.”

It wasn’t a concussion. It wasn’t a migraine. It was vertigo, a condition that can cause dizziness, headaches and nausea. And it kept Bickell on the bench for the second and third periods of Game 7 in Anaheim, and off the ice for the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final —“tough playing when you’re dizzy,” he said.

But he said Monday morning that the vertigo has passed, and he was expected to be back in the lineup for Game 3 against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center.

“I talked to everybody in the city and everybody on the phone as to what I could do,” Bickell said. “It was tough sitting out and just saying that you had vertigo and can’t play. It’s passed. It’s one of those things that could take two weeks, or it could take four or five days. So I’m happy it’s gone and I’m ready to go tonight.”

Bickell was back on the second line with Brad Richards and Patrick Kane, as Joel Quenneville again split up Kane and Jonathan Toews.

It’s been a frustrating postseason for Bickell, even on the ice. In 17 games through the first three rounds, the man who earned his reputation and his $16-million contract with big-time postseason performances has no goals and five assists, even while leading the league in hits (by a wide margin).

“It’d be nice to see the puck go in the net more than it has, but hopefully I’ve been saving them for the finals, if I get the call tonight to give the team a spark,” he said Monday morning. “[Be] hard on the forecheck, that’s what I need to do.”

With Kane also struggling —he was held completely off the scoresheet in the first two games, and didn’t even register a shot on goal in Game 2 — Bickell was hopeful that he could help his linemate get over the hump.

“I open up ice for him, get him the puck, go to the net,” Bickell said. “I’m sure that slump will break soon. He’s an elite player for a reason.”

More than anything, Bickell was just glad to be back in the game after a miserable, disconcerting week.

“Been through a lot of injuries in my career, but never been through anything like that,” he said.

Also expected to enter the lineup is rookie defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, likely in for David Rundblad.

Van Riemsdyk has played eight AHL games since Nov. 16, suffering a fractured kneecap in Montreal and then injuring his wrist with the Rockford IceHogs. Both injuries required surgery. It’s a tough spot to walk into for anyone, let alone a rookie with 18 games of NHL experience. But van Riemsdyk feels he’s ready. And at this stage of the postseason, fresh legs might be a good thing.

“I’ve been doing all that I can to get ready and just be mentally prepared for this,” he said. “Obviously, there’s a lot of experience in this room that can help you get ready. I’ve got a brother that’s been through this. He’s helped me out. That’s definitely been an advantage to have. I’m looking forward to it. It’s been a fun experience to be part of it this time and not just watching on TV or watching my brother go through it. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Van Riemsdyk’s brother, James (now with Toronto), was a rookie in 2010 when the Philadelphia Flyers played the Hawks in the Final. He spoke with Trevor on Sunday and had some advice.

“Just to enjoy it, just remember it’s just a hockey game,” Trevor van Riemsdyk said. “There’s a lot of stuff going on, maybe it’s a little more hectic, and stuff outside of the rink and before you get on the ice. But when you get on the ice, it’s just another hockey game.”

As for whom the Hawks will face, Lightning coach Jon Cooper was coy about his starting goaltender Ben Bishop, who left Game 2 twice and didn’t finish it, participated in the optional morning skate along with backup Andrei Vasilevskiy. Bishop was the first off the ice, though, which usually indicates that night’s starting goalie.

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