December 18, 2014
Michal Handzus could be out “for a little bit” with an upper-body injury, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.
Handzus, who had wrist surgery in the summer and also tore his medial collateral ligament during the Stanley Cup Final, didn’t participate in the morning skate Saturday and could miss at least three games, as the Hawks play them in a four-day span.
Marcus Kruger moved up from the fourth line to Handzus’ spot between Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane on the second line. Handzus, who missed the preseason as he recovered from his playoff injuries, appeared to be struggling to keep up with his faster linemates in recent games.
“Offensively, we haven’t given [Kruger] that much of an opportunity to play up there in those types of situations,” Quenneville said. “Offensively, not a lot was happening [on the second line]. Hopefully, we get a little spark there.”
Jonathan Toews entered the game against the Minnesota Wild having taken a minor penalty in four consecutive games. He had 12 penalty minutes through 10 games — that’s roughly double his career rate. And his six penalties are the most on the team.
“I try to make sure I’m not the guy that’s taking penalties every game the way I have been lately,” Toews said. “Best way to kill a penalty is not to take one in the first place, and I haven’t been doing a great job of that. It’s something I have to focus on.”
Added Quenneville: “I don’t like Jonny taking penalties because we need him on the penalty kill. Seems like a lot of the guys that are taking penalties are our penalty-killers this year. That might be part of why we’re having such a hard time.”
Nikolai Khabibulin is likely to get more work now that the Hawks are facing eight back-to-back sets over the next two months. He’ll have to do better than he did Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning when he gave up six goals on only 25 shots in a 6-5 overtime loss.
“We’re definitely not pleased, knowing that we’re expecting more than that,” Quenneville said. “Let’s move forward in a positive way, but knowing that’s not good enough.”