Bickell back in Blackhawks' plans; Emery to start

Joel QuennevilleMinnesota WildCorey CrawfordChicago BlackhawksRay EmeryAmerican Hockey LeagueBen Smith (ice hockey)

Bryan Bickell is getting another chance to prove he belongs in the Chicago Blackhawks' lineup.

The winger will replace rookie Ben Smith, who was sent to Rockford of the American Hockey League on Monday, when the Hawks face the Western Conference-leading Wild in Minnesota on Wednesday night.

"Ben was working hard here to show himself that he wants to be here (but) unfortunately he's gone down," Bickell said following Tuesday's practice at the United Center. "I'll take the opportunity and I have to do the best I can do with it."

Bickell has been a healthy scratch for five consecutive games after having recorded no points during the month of November.

"It was quite frustrating," Bickell said of sitting out. "The first couple of games I think I was hard on myserf. I have to take it on the ice and pick up my work ethic and work hard and show coach (Joel Quenneville) I want to be in the lineup and stay (there).

"I just need to be ready," Bickell added. "I wasn't playing my best and through the last couple of weeks I've been realizng what I need to do to stay focused and to be ready for every shift every game. (Quenneville's) told me to be ready and I think I am."

Quenneville said Bickell, who skated with center Dave Bolland and fellow winger Andrew Brunette during Tuesday's practice, can be a difference-maker.

"We like (Bickell's) speed, we like his size (and) physicality," Quenneville said. "I just think he had a really strong year for us (in 2010-11) and a good start and we want to get him back to that pace."

Meanwhile, Ray Emery will make his third consecutive start in goal when the Hawks face the Wild. The veteran has performed well during that span and has kept No. 1 netminder Corey Crawford on the bench.

"When a goalie gets a chance to get the net you don't want to disrupt it," Quenneville said. "You give him some confidence by putting him back in the net. He's given us what we're looking for and at the same time Crawford is working on his game, anticipating a chance to get back in. It's a healthy situation that Ray is playing well. He deserves to keep going."

ckuc@tribune.com

Twitter @ChrisKuc

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