NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Blackhawks went 10-3-1 without Bryan Bickell as he rehabbed a knee injury suffered Nov. 19 in Colorado. But Bickell wasn’t expecting his return to the lineup Tuesday in Nashville to be problematic.
“The team was going well when I was in the lineup,” he said with a smile.
Bickell, who was activated from injured reserve on Monday, will return to his usual spot on the left side of the third line, where he’ll be joined by Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad, who’ll move from left to right wing.
“He’s got a presence, he gives us some size and some physicality,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said of Bickell. “Hopefully that can be a good line for us, knowing they all bring a little something different as a group of three. Could be a dangerous line, as well.”
In Bickell’s absence, the Hawks have relied largely on Jeremy Morin (who was sent back to Rockford to make room for Bickell) and defenseman Sheldon Brookbank to plug that hole. So Quenneville was glad to have his full complement of forwards at his disposal for the first time in a month.
“Yeah, and I think now that we’ve got everybody, you can try things,” he said. “We’ve got some guys on the left and the right sides that can flip, you can move guys around. And I don’t think we lose a lot of what we’re looking for, and that’s all lines contributing.”
Bickell said his month away “felt like it was three months,” and that for the first two weeks of his absence, he didn’t think he’d be back anytime soon. But his rehab picked up speed over the last two weeks, and he said he’ll be playing at full speed tonight.
“If I wasn’t ready, I wouldn’t be playing,” he said. “I’m ready to play and do whatever it takes.”
He’ll be playing with a knee brace on his left knee — to match the one he’s been wearing on his right knee since the spring — but he didn’t think it would limit him in any way.
“I played with it during the playoffs last year,” he said. “It takes a couple practices to get used to it. I feel by now I should be used to it, and hopefully I can in the future get rid of them, but for now, I’ve got to keep them.”
Antti Raanta will start again in net for the Blackhawks. Former Hawks prospect and reigning NHL third star of the week Carter Hutton will start for the Predators. Quenneville said Corey Crawford should be back on the ice to start skating again sometime in the next few days.