CHICAGO – As a young forward chasing his dream to play in the NHL, Bryan Bickell decided to pattern his game after one player in particular.
Bickell’s role model was Dustin Penner, a five-time 20-goal scorer who now plays with the Los Angeles Kings.
“He’s a similar player to me,” Bickell said Sunday before Hawks beat the Kings, 4-2, in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals. “He’s a bigger guy that has good puck possession [and] a great shot. Looking at when he was in Edmonton, I kind of patterned myself a similar style as he did.
“But, you know, I’m not Penner. It’s my own game. I just need to bring it every night.”
Bickell did so again by scoring his sixth goal of the playoffs during a Hawks power play in the second period.
Before the start of the series against the Kings, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville promoted Bickell to the top line alongside Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Bickell responded with an assist, five shots on goal and six hits in the Hawks’ series-opening win.
Toews said he enjoyed having Bickell (6-4, 233 pounds) as a linemate.
“He’s a big body and he knows where to go,” Toews said. “He creates space. …
“I think we’re working well right now. We kind of have the physical element with him running around and hitting guys.”
Yet Bickell said it was important to know the difference between aggressiveness and recklessness. Bickell has avoided the penalty box in 11 of 14 games in the playoffs.
“I think you need to pick your spots,” Bickell said. “You don’t just run around hitting everything in sight. If the hit’s there, the hit’s there.”
Ice, ice, baby: Recent rock concerts and hot-and-cold weather have prompted questions about the quality of the ice surface at the United Center.
Per NHL rules, the Hawks will not conduct on-ice activities between periods for the rest of the playoffs to help maintain the ice.
“I think it’s been OK,” Hawks defenseman Johnny Oduya said. “Maybe at the end of periods, it gets a little bit chippier than you would like.
“It’s the same for both teams. We should be able to manage that by this point.”
No doubt: If you ever bump into Kings coach Darryl Sutter on the street, don’t bother asking him about his team’s confidence level.
As far as Sutter is concerned, his group’s confidence never changes, win or lose.
“I don’t think confidence is an issue for us, ever,” said Sutter, who was hired to coach the Kings in December 2011. “I have yet to see it in 17 months or whatever it is.
“It’s kind of a funny question to ask when you’re in the conference finals, if the team is confident.”