Bryan Bickell started the season playing 15 to 18 minutes a night. Since returning from a knee injury on Dec. 17, he’s been playing less than 10 minutes a night.
Tonight, he’ll play zero minutes.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville finally reached his breaking point with the slumping Bickell on Sunday night, benching him in favor of a seventh defenseman — Michael Kostka, who skated in warmups as a winger on the third line, with Michal Handzus and Kris Versteeg — against the Winnipeg Jets. It was Kostka’s first NHL game at forward. He played one preseason game at wing because of a last-minute equipment problem for Bickell.
Bickell, who earned a four-year, $16-million contract with his breakout, nine-goal, eight-assist performance in the playoffs last season — has just seven goals and two assists through 39 games this season. He has just one goal and one assist in his last 14 games, with a minus-7 rating in that span.